[Column] Jon Tullett: Cloud economics for enterprises

When looking at cloud economics for enterprises, it is important to determine whether the cloud spend within the organisation is optimal today and will continue to be so tomorrow. According to Jon Tullett, Associate Research Director, IT Services & Cloud, at IDC sub-Saharan Africa, this is something that is often overlooked when determining whether the cloud solutions a company is using are providing optimal value.

Speaking at the International Data Corporation (IDC) Cloud and Datacentre Roadshow in South Africa, he said there are a lot of misconceptions about moving to the cloud, such as it is cheaper, costs would be more sustainable and it would be easier to manage, but it is not that simple. “The reality is that it’s harder than a lot of people think.   Many organisations end up with duplicate spending because they have some stuff in the cloud and others are not, or they are using two or more clouds. So, it is important to get a better handle on that to rationalise the spend.”

He says while he recommends that organisations actively and aggressively look for the best places to run their applications, this can be a difficult task. “People often focus only on the monthly cost or consumption cost, but what they’re overlooking are the hidden costs such as the cost of additional services and technologies to conduct a migration or to integrate a new environment into the existing infrastructure, the cost of retraining skills, switching both professional services and technology providers, or the egress costs of getting your data out of where it is, which often surprises people,” says Tullett.

Then there is also the potential cost around the risk that must be considered, such as the costs in the event of a failure, recovery costs and opportunity cost delays to roll out to the market. “So, there are a lot of hidden costs that need to be understood, over and above just the cost of the cloud solution you are considering. That said, organisations should continuously be looking at what the best environment for their applications  is. They must just not make the decision based purely on what it’s going to cost them at the moment,” he advises. “What many people don’t realise is that the marginal cost of running cloud services is relatively consistent from one to another. So, if somebody is massively underselling the competition, they are cutting costs somewhere else and eventually those costs will be recovered one way or another.”

While sustainability is a key priority globally, Tullett believes that there are more pressing issues facing organisations in South Africa and the rest of the African continent.. “Right now, it’s all about power. In South Africa, our biggest concerns are around reducing power consumption and cost, while also reducing exposure to risk when the lights go out. Yes, you can manage that risk by moving stuff out of your data centre, which is very power-hungry and where managing risk is difficult and put it into a third-party data centre and just hope they will take care of the risk, but they have energy supply issues of their own. And the network has energy supply issues. So, in this country, the focus is on power availability and continuity,” he says. “That is what’s driving a lot of conversations and we’re seeing data centre operators investing in renewable energies just to support their operations, which is a good thing. In that respect, the data centre and cloud industry are leading some of the renewable energy conversations here, but it’s still a big concern.”

Tullett says the entire delivery chain of applications needs greater scrutiny. “You can offset a lot of risk by moving stuff out of on-premise into the cloud or a third-party data centre, but if you forget about the network component, that will fail eventually and then you have just lost access to this very expensive cloud application. That’s one thing. The other thing is modernization,” he concludes. “Don’t just lift and shift your old technology architecture into a new environment and expect miracles, because all you have done then is picked up your technical debt and moved it somewhere else and added some more. While it’s an important step, it can’t be your last step. You need to take the next step and the next step is to start modernizing and re-architecting those applications.”

Jon Tullett is the Research Manager, IT Services, IDC South Africa

SAS strengthens South African cloud presence with Microsoft partnership

Analytics leader SAS has built on its global strategic partnership with Microsoft with the immediate availability of SAS Cloud on Microsoft Azure in South Africa.

This forms part of an extensive go-to-market approach by the two organisations in South Africa designed to provide business customers with the ability to run their SAS workloads more easily in the cloud.

“Underpinned by the Azure cloud platform, we can now offer a range of locally deployed SAS hosted managed services (HMS) designed to unlock the full potential of data, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) to South African corporate users across all industry verticals. SAS HMS is our white glove service providing our solutions deployed on a robust, cloud-based infrastructure that has been tuned specifically for the proposed solution with dedicated high-touch 24x7x365 service and support,” says Stephan Wessels, SAS Head of Customer Advisory for South Africa.

“Previously, customers using the SAS Viya AI, analytics, and data platform had to provision it either in the UK or other regions where SAS data centres are hosted or had to put their own resources in place in South Africa. Thanks to this partnership with Microsoft, we can now enable local businesses to run our technology end-to-end, while we also take care of all the operational responsibility leaving the customer to focus on reaching its own strategic objectives,” says Essie Mokgonyana, Country Manager & Sales Director SAS in South Africa.

This makes SAS the first analytics company with a cloud presence in South Africa. For financial services providers who have stringent compliance and regulatory requirements around data sovereignty, this local access is critically important. Furthermore, having the data and infrastructure hosted locally assists users with quicker performance, low latency, and faster time to insights.

SAS says it is also providing end-to-end security to protect the entire environment to safeguard sensitive data against compromise. 


[Column] Marilyn Moodley: Conquering the biggest cloud adoption challenges with an effective strategy

As CIOs turn to the cloud to help streamline performance across key areas of operations, knowing exactly how to conquer the biggest cloud adoption challenges is more important than ever before says,  Marilyn Moodley, Country Leader for South Africa and WECA (West, East, Central Africa) at SoftwareOne. 

One of the first hurdles organisations encounter centres on what it expects cloud adoption to achieve. “Executives and technology teams may have slightly different views on this. While board members might believe the business needs to keep up with cloud trends, IT might focus on the challenges and complexities of cloud migration. Each view has its merits as cloud brings fundamental changes to how an organisation operates – and how it manages critical workloads,” notes Moodley.

With an understanding of what cloud adoption can do for an organisation, the next step is clearly articulating the primary reason for moving to the cloud. “Is it to reduce costs? Provide greater scalability? Or a requirement to grow and expand into new markets? It’s important to clarify key business goals before you can connect these to the capabilities that cloud can deliver,” she says.

A cloud adoption roadmap

Often the sheer magnitude of what organisations face on their cloud journey leads to a state of ‘analysis paralysis’ in which the research phase takes much longer than anticipated. “This can be a precarious juncture for an organisation as there is a temptation to then leap into the cloud wholesale without fully considering whether some workloads are appropriate,” says Moodley.

She adds that organisations can alleviate some of this pressure by focusing on applications rather than on technologies and architectures. “The key is to decide what’s needed for each application. Is it feasible to move the application to the cloud? Does it need to be modernised first? Or would a simple lift and shift work? Knowing this helps to prioritise and break down a migration program into more manageable chunks.”

Moodley says a comprehensive licensing assessment provides important guidance on which software needs must be met and the most cost-effective method of ensuring an organisation remains one step ahead of software audits and can proactively solve IT compliance issues before they happen.

A practical migration plan

After a business has clarified its goals and assessed its licensing and application needs, it can then prioritise which applications should be moved to the cloud first and start building a practical and achievable migration plan. 

“SoftwareOne understands how to guide organisations through this process, helping with considerations such as how to time the migration of certain applications to ensure that key business processes aren’t disrupted. For instance, if an organisation has workloads with specific seasonal usage, it might want to migrate the applications used for that process well outside of those busy periods. Having an application-centric approach allows a business to plan its migration more simply than using a more traditional server-centric approach,” Moodley explains.

An effective migration plan should provide a clear view of the costs involved. However, Moodley cautions that while a move to the cloud can reduce some expenses, it is not always the case early on. “An organisation will save on data centre operating costs once migration is 100% complete, but this process takes time. Aspects such as electricity, cooling and even building rent will not necessarily decrease in cost in a granular way if they are still required for the applications that remain. Enlisting the help of a partner who understands the migration funding programs available through all of the hyperscale cloud services providers – Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure –can ease transitional costs considerably,” she says.

Moodley notes that in the complexities of moving to the cloud, many organisations can lose sight of common pitfalls which can be avoided by identifying key cloud drivers in a documented strategy.

Marilyn Moodley is the South African Country Leader for SoftwareONE.

Cloud brings customers and innovation, Red Hat Sub-Saharan Africa GM says

South Africa and Kenya are worlds apart in their embrace of information technology, but they have one thing in common: they jointly lead the African continent in having the biggest impact of cloud computing on customer experience across 7 major African markets.

This was one of the most significant findings of the final results of the Cloud in Africa 2023 study released today by World Wide Worx, with support from F5, Red Hat, Dell Technologies, Intel and VMware. The study, based on interviews with 400 information technology decision makers in medium and large organisations across Africa, found that 63% of respondents across the continent had experienced an extremely positive impact on customer experience as a result of cloud computing. In South Africa and Kenya, that number jumped to 71%.

The two countries also shared a high impact on business growth: 51% of South African companies and 46% of those in Kenya reported strong business growth following migration to the cloud.

However, a gulf opened between the two countries when it came to the impact of cloud on innovation. In South Africa, 65% of respondents reported a high impact on innovation, while the proportion dropped to 36% in Kenya.

“Companies often move to the cloud seeking quick wins in the form of improved business efficiency or enhanced customer experience,” says Dion Harvey, Regional General Manager of Red Hat Sub Saharan Africa. “However, what we tend to see at Red Hat is that true value in the form of real innovation and impact on strategic goals is only realised once they have matured their thinking and approach to cloud.”

Asked what they saw as the biggest benefits of cloud computing in general, companies identified what World Wide Worx CEO Arthur Goldstuck, principal analyst on the research project, calls the cloud’s “golden quartet”: improved security, better customer experience, business efficiency and saleability.

However, the benefits were not equally distributed. Fewer than half of South African companies, 47%, reported security as a major benefit, compared to an average of 59%. The figure leaped to 78% in Ghana and 63% in Kenya. On the other hand, South Africa led the way in seeing scalability as a benefit, at 47%, compared to an average of 41%. Nigerian companies reflected the lowest response in this regard, at only 29%.

Alain Tshal, district manager of F5 for Sub-Saharan Africa, says that these results underline the extent to which the cloud is not a one-size-fits-all proposition in Africa.

“Every country is at a different level of maturity, and that has a major impact on both immediate benefits of migration and long-term benefits of use. South Africa has had the most extensive investment in hyperscale data centres over the past five years of any country in Africa, so it is no surprise to see that it has very different characteristics to most other markets.”

At the same time, where companies have accelerated their investment in cloud computing, the impact is immediately apparent, says Goldstuck.

“The latest findings show that Kenya had the strongest growth in cloud computing in 2022, with a huge 84% of respondents reporting increased spend, compared to an average of 62%,” he says. “South Africa saw 55% of companies increasing their spend. That is partly a consequence of spending already having been high in previous years, compared to countries like Kenya.”

Companies from Malawi, Zambia and Botswana all reported a higher level of increased spend, while Nigeria and Ghana came in just below South Africa. Expectations for 2023 flip around, however. While an overall average of 68% of companies expect to increase spending on cloud services this year, that jumps above 80% for Botswana and above 70% for South African and Nigeria. In contrast, Kenya drops to the bottom of the list this year, with 51% of companies reporting they will increase their spend.


[Column] Andrew Cruise: The value of an ecosystem in today’s complex cloud environment

As the cloud landscape grows and sprawls, it’s becoming increasingly complex for users to keep up with all the moving parts, processes, and new developments. 

The cloud ‘ecosystem’, as it’s called, refers to all these multiple building blocks that make up a cloud operating model, encompassing people, processes, and technology, from vendors to service providers and end users. And, just like a natural ecosystem, the cloud ecosystem is constantly evolving.

The latest trend in this evolutionary process will hopefully make the environment less complex for end users, says Andrew Cruise, Managing Director of Routed, a local cloud platform provider and VMware specialist. “Historically, vendors approached the market in a siloed fashion. As complexity has increased, and options have become much more varied for partners and end users, vendors have started integrating their products more. It’s not a new trend or approach, but it is maturing quite rapidly at the moment.”

In short, vendors are learning to play nicely together, because the market is forcing them to. “Previously, vendors had a lot more power. Now, there’s more choice, and vendors are having to up their game. Microsoft is a good example of this. Historically, they wouldn’t go anywhere near an operating system that wasn’t Microsoft Windows, but they’ve now developed a version of Microsoft SQL Server for Linux. And this is happening right across the market, with big and small vendors,” says Cruise.

“Other similar examples include VMware, traditionally an on-premises hypervisor software, branching out into a more multi-cloud approach. Or Veeam, traditionally on-premises backup software, branching out into cloud-based backup and utilising the cloud. Everyone is casting the net a bit wider.”

But, as in any ecosystem, some organisms evolve more slowly than others. Cruise says customers should think carefully about how whatever piece of hardware or software is being sold to them fits into the bigger picture. “While vendors should be working together, and most are, customers should be wary of resellers who aren’t telling this ecosystem story. It could mean getting stuck in a silo, restricted by, or locked in with one vendor, if they don’t consider how that vendor’s products fit into the cloud ecosystem. Before buying into anything, it’s important to consider how the solutions you choose integrate with others and fit into the bigger picture, and to feel confident that your vendors are talking to each other.”

The added bonus is that customers benefit from more skill sharing and a higher level of expertise in this evolving environment. “In South Africa, as in many other countries, we’re seeing a skills drain – experts in the field are moving to international territories or companies because they can offer more competitive packages. But, in this case, it means that customers and partners are in good hands when looking to resellers, service providers and vendors for support. Major vendors are snapping up the best people and centralising the expertise – but this can be beneficial for all the stakeholders in the ecosystem. Whether the provider is VMware, Veeam, or Routed, customers can feel confident that these vendors are talking to each other, and to their partners and providers.”

Andrew Cruise is the managing director at Routed.

[South Africa] BCX fully acquires software firm DotCom Software Projects to push cloud adoption

BCX, one of Africa’s largest systems integrators and digital transformation partners, has acquired 100% of the shares in DotCom Software Projects  (“DotCom”).

The acquisition will see BCX enrich its cloud services and provide greater value to its clients across key verticals.

“With greater access to on-demand computing power, highly scalable platforms and more flexible ap-proaches to IT spending, cloud computing has gone from an emerging technology to an indispensable business resource, ”said Jan Bouwer, Chief of Digital Platform Solutions at BCX. 

BCX has, over the past year, increased its focus on Cloud Computing with its cloud-agnostic strategy, having recently announced an exclusive rights deal with Alibaba Cloud, one of the largest cloud players globally. The acquisition of DotCom brings this strategy to life by providing greater choice, diversity, and value to its clients. DotCom was founded in 2012 and has become a significant player in digital transformation, specialising in cloud solutions and as a trusted Microsoft Azure Gold partner.

“As a Cloud Solutions Provider, DotCom adds to our own cloud capabilities, specifically with regards to Microsoft Azure, which further drives our cloud agnostic strategy”, said Bouwer.

“BCX is also aggressively growing its capabilities to create a more balanced product portfolio for growth. The acquisition of DotCom combined with existing capabilities at BCX will create a power-house in the cloud space. I am confident that welcoming DotCom into the BCX family will not only bolster our capabilities but will create further opportunities to grow our product portfolio in the future”, adds Jonas Bogoshi, CEO at BCX. DotCom delivers cloud computing-based services and solutions including Cloud software solutions, Cloud Managed Services and Cloud Advisory and Consulting services to companies migrating to cloud computing. Within eleven years, the company has built up a significant client base drawn from a range of industries, including the financial and insurance sectors.

“BCX and DotCom are a natural fit. I think we complement one another and share the same commitment of helping our clients make the transition to secure cloud in a way that strengthens their business and accelerates their growth,” JC van den Heever, CEO of DotCom said. “The cloud computing market continues to grow rapidly as companies move from on-premises solutions to cloud-based systems. Trends emerging suggest that companies will continue to adopt new deployment models, such as edge and cloud-native applications, to shifts in operating models, to remote and virtual desktops. I believe that together we can transition our clients seamlessly through these developments,” adds van den Heever.

The future of cloud computing is increased adoption and discovering new ways to use systems and in-formation in the cloud to drive insights and operational efficiencies. More and more businesses are investing in a hybrid approach that mixes on-premises and cloud-based systems, and the market as a whole is moving towards greater reliance on subscription-based software, infrastructure, and man-aged cloud services. This acquisition marks a significant milestone for both companies, who are ambitious about bringing the business benefits of this investment and greater innovation in cloud computing to their clients.


[Column] Marilyn Moodley: Cloud Security – Whose fault is it?

At least 95% of cloud security failures in the next three years will be the customer’s fault, according to Gartner. Unsurprisingly, the biggest threat to security is people. Misconfiguration mistakes escalated from 15% of exploitable errors in 2018 to more than 40% in 2021 and human error is now the third most common cause of security breaches, ahead of malware and right up there with social engineering and hacking. Complacency about cloud security is a major contributing factor, but this needs to change. Most cloud services operate under a shared responsibility model in which providers secure the infrastructure, while customers are required to lock down the software stack and applications. In other words, responsibility for patching vulnerabilities and controlling access to cloud accounts still lies with the user.

What does this mean? Organisations need to remain vigilant, ensuring that they take the necessary steps and precautions to secure their data and identities if they’re to avoid becoming an unfortunate statistic with no one to blame but themselves.

Identify, verify, control

No matter the deployment model, sufficient controls are required to govern access and usage. With such a variety of effective Identity and Access Control service providers available today, there is little excuse for businesses not to have these measures in place. Authentication and access control requires users to verify their identity, and secures their access to resources across cloud, SaaS, on-prem and APIs, while increasing speed, agility, and efficiency.

Such IAM solutions make it straightforward to provide the means for customers, employees and partners to all have secure access to the necessary resources. By using identity verification and access control services located in the cloud, the limitations and costs associated with on-premises IAM can be replaced by a more flexible, scalable solution. Cloud IAM is key to ensuring security outside of network perimeters and capabilities include authentication, access management, identity verification, consent collection, risk management and API security.

Access control to the cloud should be regulated through the creation of centralised rules and policies to streamline processes. The use of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is critical to ensure the correct identification of individuals trying to access networked resources, while Privileged Access Management (PAM) tools enforce control over sensitive components and applications in the environment.  These tools form part of a larger cloud security picture that includes details such as a zero trust framework, bolstered with cybersecurity mesh, and reinforced with Secure Access Service Edge (SASE).

Zero trust: never trust, always verify

Zero trust is a framework for securing organisations in cloud and mobile spaces by insisting that no user or application be trusted by default. It enables least-privileged access, establishes trust based on context which is informed by user identity and location, endpoint security posture as well as the app or service being requested, while performing necessary policy checks at each step. A well-tuned zero trust architecture leads to simpler network infrastructure, a better user experience, and improved cyber threat defense.

SASE: borderless security

Secure access service edge (SASE) is a framework for network architecture that brings cloud native security technologies together with wide area network (WAN) capabilities to securely connect users, systems, and endpoints to applications and services anywhere. This ensures that data and traffic is secured, no matter where it travels.

Cybersecurity MESH: closing the gaps

Gartner describes cybersecurity mesh as “a flexible, composable architecture that integrates widely distributed and disparate security services”. Concerned with strengthening digital security while bringing tools closer to the assets they’re designed to defend, a cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA) encourages organisations to deploy solutions that fit their specific needs by working within their integrated ecosystems. This enables businesses to share cybersecurity intelligence, automate and coordinate responses to threats, and simplify their security operations. CSMA offers a distributed identity fabric that helps establish trusted access across all applications, customers, partners, and workforces.

Achieving visibility and developing security skill sets

Visibility in cloud security means eliminating blind spots that can result in overspending, performance inefficiencies and security complications. This is done through service-centric or role-centric tools, rather than host-centric tools to manage networks. If it is not possible to hire the necessary competencies, organisations will have to develop them. Many vendors offer online resources to help technologists learn the skills they need to become cloud security engineers. In addition to an increase in the need to cultivate the necessary skills, there will be an increase in demand for technologists that have the DevOps skills necessary to align business workloads with the cloud.  Upskilling will also be critical to bridging the skills gap which includes training business teams on how to use cloud tools.

Owning security responsibility

Accordingly, it’s important for businesses to remember that even when they’re purchasing infrastructure, software or functionality as a service, they’re not outsourcing total responsibility for security. This will continue to be a shared responsibility, because it is unlikely that service providers would willingly take on the possibility of being liable for human action or error beyond their control. As such, organisations will need to prioritise the acquisition of or the development of necessary security-minded skills in order to protect their digital assets from cyber harm.

Marilyn Moodley is the South African Country Leader for SoftwareONE.

How the biggest international cloud trends impact Africa

The latter half of 2022 was characterised by significant instabilities in the tech industry. E-retailer and cloud giant Amazon announced that it would cut tens of thousands of jobs, social media behemoths Twitter and Meta laid off significant percentages of their workforce, and even Microsoft saw its slowest revenue growth in five years.

“There’s chaos in the industry internationally,” says Andrew Cruise, Managing Director of Routed, a local cloud platform provider and VMware specialist. “The war in Ukraine has kicked off a period of great uncertainty that’s affected global inflation, exchange rates, and general risk appetite. This follows the boom during the early months of the pandemic, when the tech industry saw such growth that many companies made significant investments in new assets, infrastructure, and expertise. Now that growth has slowed, they’re faced with two options: sit tight and wait it out, or shrink. 

When it comes to cloud, specifically, the euphoria around hyperscale cloud (from providers like Amazon, Azure, and more) has also waned, adds Benjamin Coetzer, Director at Routed. “Firstly, enterprises are realising that hyperscale cloud is better suited to development and not everyday business. Secondly, they’re starting to scrutinise their mounting bills, which have grown significantly as their cloud needs have become more complicated and sprawled.” 

Interestingly, things look a bit different in Africa. Hyperscalers like Azure and AWS only started arriving in South Africa in recent years, while Google, Alibaba and BCX just announced their arrival. “It surprised me to see how many hyperscalers decided to set up shop in South Africa almost overnight, as well as how many datacentre companies and IT players have started investing in Africa as a whole,” adds Coetzer.

However, the current economic climate and insufficient infrastructure across the continent warrant some caution: “There is big demand in South Africa, there is big money in South Africa, and there is good infrastructure in South Africa. But when it comes to cloud, I always say the one non-negotiable precondition to move into enterprise cloud (or for enterprise applications to move into the cloud) is fast, reliable, cheap internet. Only fibre sufficiently provides that, and only in South Africa. In Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya and Nigeria fibre penetration is low and it is still extremely expensive at low speeds. No-one else in sub-Saharan Africa has got the precondition for enterprise cloud to be successful. And yet, we’re still seeing demand from people. And I think the demand is misplaced for the moment,” says Cruise.

Worryingly, some hyperscale resellers aren’t giving potential clients the full story – or perhaps they aren’t aware of the conditions on the ground. “They’re delivering the same message in Africa as in the rest of the world, not understanding that Africa can’t deliver on that until local infrastructure improves. South Africa is five years behind the West, and some other countries in Africa are five, if not ten, years behind South Africa. Sure, you can eventually back up your data with an internet connection speed of five megabits per second – but what happens when you need to recover it?”

And then there are the costs to consider. “I think people are going to be surprised by the price increases from AWS, Azure, Google and the like over the next year. Experts in the West are predicting major increases – and that doesn’t even factor in the weak rand.”

Coetzer adds: “Those who don’t need the bells and whistles that developers use and opt for an enterprise cloud will now start seeing significantly more value for their money as that gap increases. Routed’s pricing, for example, has come down in the six years since the company started, while hyperscalers’ prices have kept climbing.

Cruise concludes “I’m hoping that allows people to make better decisions going forward. Many think that IT and cloud is exciting and cutting edge, but what most people really want from the cloud, really need, is for it to be boring. It has to work, all the time, no surprises. And that’s what enterprise cloud does really well. This coming year will bring more of the same, and there isn’t a problem with that.”


[Kenya] iColo expects demand for colocation centres to increase

As internet penetration in Kenya continues to increase, the demand for data centres is also booming. Customers in the country are increasingly using data centres to access public cloud-based services from hosts like Google, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and others.

Carrier-neutral data centre infrastructure provider iColo expects this demand to go up in the coming years. 

iColo CEO Ranjith Cherickel while speaking during a recent media tour of the firm’s recently opened Mombasa (MBA2) data centre said this increased demand is expected to be in line with the country’s GDP. 

‘’Larger investments are coming from cloud players around the world and they require large resilient systems and this marks a big step in providing colocation’’ he said.

Currently, Africa accounts for less than 1% of the world’s co-location data centre supply, with South Africa accounting for the bulk of the continent’s capacity. Co-location facilities rent space, power and cooling to enterprise and hyperscale customers; they also offer interconnection enabling businesses to scale at low complexity and cost.

In February last year,  a  report from The African Data Centres Association (ADCA) and Xalam Analytic revealed that Africa needs 1000MW and 700 facilities to meet growing demand and bring the rest of the continent onto level terms with the capacity and density of South Africa. 

The reports noted that “At the onset of a new decade, it is increasingly acknowledged that Africa needs a lot more data center capacity than is currently available,”

Ranjith said that we should expect to see a disproportional growth of data centres in countries like Kenya over any other country in the region. 

‘’Colocation in the region will grow well, but in Kenya certainly better’’ he said. 

MBA2 is Icolo’s third data centre providing an estimated capacity of 1.8 megawatts and 1,200 square meters of IT space. 

The new facility can host over 600 customer racks. The location of MBA2 is in close proximity to subsea cable landing points in Mombasa enabling iColo customers to deploy and connect their infrastructure at the new site. The company says this new facility will grow its African footprint and help connect approximately 1 billion people to the internet expanding its services to tap into Africa’s expanding internet economy.


[Column] Hardeep Sound: Cloud, innovation key to East Africa’s economic growth

When the early days of the pandemic pushed industries across East Africa into survival mode, it sparked a wave of cloud adoption that has swept through the region. 

Focused at first on ensuring business continuity, investment into cloud technologies and digitalisation has since helped organisations in the region build greater resilience and unlock new business models and revenue streams. 

Even the most reluctant businesses and their customers have now come online. One of the reasons is that the benefits of greater digitalisation became clear almost immediately. 

Businesses that took the opportunity at the outset to build new capabilities, establish new revenue streams or transform their business models rapidly gained an advantage over those that were slower to transform. 

Consider how the retail sector embraced technology to adapt to lockdown restrictions and reach customers, sell products and improve visibility over volatile supply chains. Many of the businesses that digitised with speed now enjoy the benefit of more resilient business models that are better suited to the demands of the modern economy.

Cloud at heart of region’s future success

For businesses across East Africa, the cloud presents a unique opportunity to innovate, develop new products and services, and scale into new markets or geographies. 

Cloud technologies offer access to services and capabilities that are prohibitively costly for most companies to build themselves. By adopting cloud solutions for key business processes, organisations can drive greater efficiency and optimise their business processes without the upfront capital outlay of on-premise solutions.

Taking advantage of the wealth of cloud-based ‘as-a-service’ solutions can also augment internal capabilities and unlock access to supplier networks, tech skills and other capabilities that were previously out of reach. 

Many businesses have experienced the benefits of such services when the first lockdowns created the need to enable remote work capabilities. By leveraging cloud technologies, businesses could maintain communication with teams and customers and ensure continuity. Today, cloud technologies play a central role in transforming how organisations measure, manage and motivate their hybrid workforce.

As the ripple effects of the pandemic travelled through the global economy, businesses turned to cloud technologies to improve visibility over their supply chains and assist with planning and risk mitigation. When a different, post-pandemic customer emerged, one that demanded greater personalisation, convenience and choice, organisations could once again leverage the power of cloud technologies to enable new ways of engagement with customers.  

Once-in-a-generation opportunity

Now, the region faces a golden opportunity to drive innovation and achieve new gains across their internal and customer-facing operations by leveraging the cloud. 

A recent study revealed that some East African industries have taken the lead with cloud adoption, including the banking, marketing, agriculture and education sectors.

Considering the importance of manufacturing and tourism to the regional economy, organisations operating in these industries should leap at the opportunity to digitise.

Business-to-business spending in Africa’s manufacturing sector is set to reach $1-trillion by 2050, and the sector is well-placed to grow and become more competitive through digitisation. By building Industry 4.0 capabilities underpinned by the cloud, manufacturers could unlock the benefits of AI and robotic process automation with predictive analytics to gain unprecedented control, predictability and operational efficiency.

The tourism sector was one of the hardest hit by pandemic restrictions as international travel came to a total standstill at the peak of the pandemic. Considering the sector contributed 8.1% to the region’s GDP in 2019, the impact of the restrictions on local businesses could not be overstated.  

By leveraging the cloud to build new ways of engaging with travellers and removing friction from the travel process, the tourism sector could tap into a global tourism sector hungry for new experiences. 

Three focus areas for cloud success

Businesses will benefit from choosing priority areas for cloud deployment that can deliver the greatest benefit with the shortest time-to-value, and use the learnings to drive adoption in other areas of the business. 

Based on our work helping organisations in East Africa leverage the cloud for business success, the following key focus areas could offer the most valuable starting points for cloud adoption:

1 Innovate, innovate, innovate

East Africa can benefit from greater investment into innovation and research and development to improve the region’s global competitiveness and lure foreign direct investment. 

The pharmaceutical sector, for example, holds enormous potential for research and development initiatives that can drive economic growth and create new industries while also reducing our need to import product and service innovations.

Regional innovators could consider to leverage the experience and market insight of cloud service providers with experience supporting pharmaceutical innovation. This can help avoid costly mistakes, close the gap on best practice, and ensure there is an optimal technology mix to support innovation. As an example, 18 of the world’s 20 largest vaccine manufacturers run their production facilities using SAP technology, so any new facility can tap into SAP’s domain knowledge to fast-track success.

2 Remove uncertainty from decision-making

The continued volatility in the global economy has created an environment of uncertainty that is hampering growth and innovation. To remove some of this uncertainty, organisations should invest in enterprise resource planning solutions to achieve greater clarity and control over key business functions and core processes. 

Cloud adoption can also unlock access to data and analytics capabilities that can empower decision-makers with accurate insights over their businesses, enabling them to guide the business through challenges more effectively.

3 Aim for speed

One of the greatest advantages cloud offers is speed. Instead of spending long periods of time building on-premise capabilities, businesses can readily tap into a wealth of cloud-based solutions to immediately enjoy efficiency and innovation gains. 

For mid-market organisations, this could unlock opportunities to quickly test new digital channels and trial new business processes. Successful trials can be rapidly scaled to the rest of the business or to new geographies, powering their growth.

Hardeep Sound is the Regional Sales Director East Africa at SAP.