[Africa Cloud Review] Simon Ngunjiri: Migrating to the cloud is the most effective route to digital transformation

For African businesses that are still at the start of their digital transformation, migrating to the cloud might seem like a very daunting task. This is according to an article by Francis Wainaina is a Senior Product Manager at SEACOM East Africa where he talks about the four steps to successful cloud migration. 

The costs of delaying this migration, however, Francis says, can be far greater than the initial challenges of cloud adoption. 

In a survey by World Wide Worx, 31% of Kenyan businesses reported spending between 51% and 75% of their IT budgets on cloud services in 2020, and 68% intend to increase their cloud spend in 2021. With so many businesses moving to the cloud, you can’t afford to be left behind.

The pandemic has doubtlessly accelerated this shift toward cloud environments as we have mentioned before. More organizations are beginning to capitalize on the various innovations that cloud can offer. 

According to industry analysts Gartner, Cloud spending rose 37% to $29 billion during the first quarter of 2020. This trend Gartner says is likely to persist, as the exodus to virtual work underscores the urgency for scalable, secure, reliable, cost-effective off-premises technology services. In fact, despite the inevitable economic downturn in the wake of the pandemic, cloud spending is estimated to rise 19% for the full year, even as IT spending as a whole is forecast to fall 8%. 

In countries like South Africa, 51% of the public sector segment are already using cloud in production. This is according to a recent survey conducted by ITWeb and AWS on the state of cloud adoption in South Africa

Migrating to the cloud is the most effective route to public sector transformation for African businesses. Just recently, Google announced a new programme to offer new scholarships for Android, Web and Google Cloud development to developers across Africa. The programme will be offered in partnership with tech talent companies Pluralsight and Andela

Cloud services have certainly revolutionized the way we do business, offering various benefits such as cost-effective access to computing power, on-demand applications, and services among others. African businesses are moving faster and cheaper especially with platforms like Google Cloud.  With 24 regions and 73 zones in 17 countries, Google Cloud delivers high-performance, low-latency cloud services to customers.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) also recently announced that it is bringing its re/Start cloud skills training program to Kenya and South Africa this month as part of its rapid expansion plans this year. 

AWS re/Start is a free, full-time, 12-week program designed to support people who are unemployed or underemployed, and who have little technology experience, for careers in cloud computing. The program provides participants with new cloud computing skills, career, and resume coaching, and interviews with local employers.

Bottom line, migrating to the cloud is the most effective route to digital transformation and IS ultimately essential for African businesses that wish to thrive in today’s digital age.

Simon Ngunjiri Muraya is Google Cloud Architect at Incentro Africa.

[Column] Francis Wainaina: The 4 steps to a successful cloud migration

Migrating to the cloud can seem like a daunting task for businesses that are still at the start of their digital transformation journeys, but the costs of delaying this decision can be far greater than the initial challenges of cloud adoption. In a survey by World Wide Worx, 31% of Kenyan businesses reported spending between 51% and 75% of their IT budgets on cloud services in 2020, and 68% intend to increase their cloud spend in 2021. With so many businesses moving to the cloud, you can’t afford to be left behind.

The pandemic has doubtlessly accelerated this shift toward cloud environments, and more organisations are beginning to capitalise on the various innovations that cloud can offer. If your business is about to undertake this digital migration, there are a few steps you don’t want to miss.

Develop a clear cloud strategy

Cloud migration may seem like a journey of a thousand miles, but with a clear hybrid strategy, it can be made manageable with smaller, calculated steps. Developing a cloud strategy should always come first, and in a way that prioritises business objectives above implementing new technology for innovation’s sake.

Start by defining the purpose for migration by evaluating your requirements and use cases for cloud. Know your workload priorities: are you going to move in phases, starting with the least critical workloads? Or is a new technology or your competition making migration a matter of urgency? It’s important to know what your plan is, why you’re doing it, and how you’re going to get there.

Capturing baseline metrics for your on-premise IT infrastructure can help establish key performance indicators when planning for a successful migration. Measurements such as CPU and memory usage, disk performance, network latency, and load balancing can tell you how well your applications and services are running and establish success criteria for areas that need improvement. Also consider the maintenance costs, access speeds, and scalability of your on-premise applications: are legacy systems costing you more, for less versatility?

Identify the right applications and services

Some applications that are not cloud native might not use resources as efficiently in the cloud as they do on-premise. This makes it important to assess which applications, assets, and services you want to move. Certain applications might need minor adjustments while others need in-depth code changes to function optimally.

You also need to know which applications work better in public, private, or hybrid environments in terms of performance, functionality, or security requirements. Whether you need to share resources with other companies via a public cloud, use a private cloud to avoid public network overloads affecting crucial business processes, or use a hybrid cloud for a bit of both, there’s an environment for every business requirement.

Maintain data integrity and operational continuity

Before conducting a complete digital overhaul of your business, it is crucial to manage the risks of cloud migration and ensure operational continuity. Moving mission-critical processes and applications without downtime harming your business is certainly possible, especially with more ‘lift and shift’ platforms becoming available that replicate network environments. But this process still requires careful planning and analysis.

When valuable business data is being moved, the integrity of the information needs to remain intact, and there should always be a back-up system in place. There is also the matter of security standards and regulatory compliance to consider, as well as potential software licencing issues when extending on-premise proprietary software to the cloud. But businesses don’t need to navigate these challenges on their own; this is where service providers come into the picture.

Choose the right cloud provider

Once you know which applications and cloud environments can bring more value to your business, you can determine whether you need to take a single or multi-cloud approach to fulfil all of your essential requirements. Choosing a reliable cloud provider can make the cloud migration journey much simpler, which is why it is helpful to partner with someone that understands the unique requirements of your business, big or small, and allows your cloud infrastructure to scale and grow as your business does.

Many business owners are not aware of the fact that a cloud provider with proven experience can handle most of the complexities of cloud migration. Having managed cloud services allows for a more seamless transition toward digital innovation while businesses can focus on their core offerings.

Cloud services have certainly revolutionised the way we do business, offering various benefits such as cost-effective access to computing power, on-demand applications and services, remote collaboration, and greater network security. Cloud migration is not a journey that happens overnight, but it is ultimately essential for those who wish to thrive in today’s digital age.

Francis Wainaina is a Senior Product Manager at SEACOM East Africa.

Raha Limited unveils Azure Stack in Tanzania accelerating digital transformation

Raha Limited has announced the first multi-tenanted Azure Stack deployment in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Availability of Azure Stack hub will enable businesses in the region access to cloud solutions that meet the local data regulatory requirements and efficiently run latency-sensitive business applications.

This investment showcases Raha Limited’s commitment to accelerate digital transformation in Tanzania by empowering businesses with a cloud solution that meets its regulatory demands. Additionally, the offering is highly secure, reduces latency, and enables real-time business continuity with flexible adoption models.

According to Reuben Lucas, Acting CEO Raha Limited, “The demand for Cloud migration has been growing steadily in Tanzania and, our expertise in the ICT space helps us partner with local businesses as they digitally transform. The deployment of Azure Stack in the country is yet another milestone achieved as we continue to help foster stronger economic and technological advancement as never seen before in Tanzania”.

Adil El Youssefi, Regional CEO of Liquid Telecom East Africa, said, “The investment into opening the first multi-tenanted Azure Stack hub in Tanzania and the Azure Stack hub deployed in Kenya last year are strategic moves that emphasise our commitment to our customers. Our customers in the EAR borders can rest assured that their IT environments are supported and secure round the clock”.

Raha Limited is taking the centre-stage to drive Tanzania’s digital transformation with our complete managed Cloud offering on Azure and Azure Stack. This is backed by our extensive and resilient fibre infrastructure across the continent. With each milestone, the organisation continues to foster economic and technological advancement in the country and the East Africa region at large. 

www.liquid.tech

[[$links]]

South Africa liquor company DGB taps clouds solution to bolster sales

In the highly competitive wine industry, producing great-tasting wines is not enough to ensure success. Without a super-charged sales team, even the best vintage runs the risk of gathering dust in a cellar. For DGB, a timely technology intervention has empowered a high-performance sales team with real-time insights into sales, orders and retail execution.

DGB is one of South Africa’s largest independent wine and spirit producers and distributors, operating out of the Western Cape. The company was formally established in 1990, although its roots stretch back more than 300 years when winemaking commenced at the historic Boschendal and Bellingham farms in the Cape Winelands.

Pieter Steyn, Commercial Manager at DGB, says the business faced several challenges that were undermining its sales efforts. These ranged from a lack of accurate reporting integration of master data across platforms, to timely placing of orders and missing data from surveys.

“It was also taking too long to add new customers to our database,” adds Steyn. “We needed a solution that would help improve product visibility in stores and ensure perfect store execution by sales representatives.”

DGB chose the SAP Sales Cloud Retail Execution (ReX) solution and worked with implementation partner Consnet to design and introduce the solution into the business. Despite the implementation of the solution being the first of its kind in South Africa, the implementation team managed to finish the high-level design, application setup, solution build and user acceptance testing within a mere three months.

According to Steyn, it was essential that the system could integrate all business functions and processes in real time to help manage the large team of salespeople effectively.

“By turning data into actionable insights, we increase our team’s productivity while also enabling better business decision-making based on accurate and real-time reporting data,” explains Steyn. “Within a few days of go-live, more than 1000 visits were completed, of which 946 were recorded as Perfect Score visits based on KPIs and store performance. This has enabled us to bring to life our core value of achieving excellence in every aspect of the business.”

Since the implementation of SAP Sales Cloud Retail Execution, DGB has been able to capture a multitude of orders via sales representatives and routed to the call centre via the new solution. “Sales managers also now have a view of their sales representatives’ movements for a day, and can track their visits and perfect store execution,” says Steyn. “This has helped drive the desired behaviour within our sales department and bring to life the benefits of the solution.”

Cameron Beveridge, Regional Director for Southern Africa at SAP, believes the implementation of the new solution has come at a vital time. “In light of the events of the past year and the ongoing disruption to business-as-usual, the ability to harness an effective sales team to build close relationships with customers has never been more important. The new solution, combined with the continued support of our partner, Consnet, will empower DGB with improved sales efficiency and, ultimately, deliver benefits to the business that will extend for years to come.”

www.dgb.co.za

www.sap.com

[[$links]]

[Column] Simon Ngunjiri: South Africa is one of the biggest cloud markets in Africa

South Africa has been described as one of the biggest cloud markets in Africa. The country is also Africa’s largest data center market, accounting for ~60% of the continent’s available MTDC power supply. 

South Africa has seen a rapid introduction of new CSPs, with Microsoft Azure Cloud and AWS entering the market as a gateway for the rest of Africa.  Businesses are also taking advantage of Google cloud as they try to revolutionize their businesses. 

South Africa is witnessing increased adoption of cloud-based solutions among enterprises and is rapidly emerging as a center for public and private cloud hosting, which will encourage more data center developments in the country. Cape Town and Johannesburg are the major preferred locations for data center development. The manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare sectors are among the major contributors to data center investments as these sectors are rapidly adopting cloud computing. The South African data center market is also increasingly adopting cloud technology.

Companies like The Argility Technology Group (ATG),  a fast-growing, South African enterprise software company are capitalizing on this opportunity. The company recently opted to stop running its own data centers and instead move its entire infrastructure to the public cloud.

A report released by cloud software provider, Nutanix, recently also revealed that in 2020, 50% of businesses in South Africa moved with speed to adopt hybrid cloud. According to the report, Hybrid cloud is the ideal IT operating model for most respondents in South Africa and elsewhere, with most IT respondents (88%) locally and globally (87%) reporting that the hybrid cloud is the ideal infrastructure model for their organization.

While there is an increase in the African market, South Africa in particular, it’s a strong hybrid cloud trend. 

Last month, Chinese tech giant also announced that it will be expanding its cloud computing presence in South Africa, with a new “availability zone” to be built in Cape Town in the next year or two. The company sees massive opportunities in the country. Recently, it announced that its cloud business has generated more than $5 million in revenue over the past year and garnered more than 1 000 partner organizations in Africa.

Stone He, president of Huawei Cloud in Southern Africa,  said South Africa, is “quite important” for Huawei’s global cloud computing road map as it eyes grabbing market share from “hyperscale” cloud market leaders Amazon Web Services and Microsoft.

Cloud computing is viewed as having the potential to significantly bolster economic growththrough the provisionof costsavings and efficiencies, including the cost of management of data and security. In Africa, South Africa ishas been described as an exceptional case, as the growth of cloud-computing services is demand-side driven through the corporate sector.

Simon Ngunjiri Muraya is Google Cloud Architect at Incentro Africa


www.incentro.com

[Column] Jon Tullett: Speed to Value – Accelerating resilience and business continuity

Why invest in cloud-driven transformation? This question likely sits on every boardroom table and circulates in most strategic technology discussions. Cloud is undeniably one of the most transformative technologies on the market today and it offers the organisation a resilient and trusted business continuity and disaster recovery toolkit, but it must be approached intelligently.

According to Jon Tullett, Research Manager for IT Services, International Data Corporation (IDC) South Africa, cloud transformation that allows for robust disaster recovery and business continuity can be anything from evolving legacy infrastructure into the cloud, to going deeper into cloud practices and outcomes that are far more strategic and sustainable.

“Moving into the cloud is a process, not a transformation,” he adds. “Cloud as part of digital transformation talks to the adoption of cloud practices and outcomes rather than technologies. It’s looking at the transformation to platforms that are scalable, flexible, self-provisioned, priced by consumption, not deployment, and highly interoperable and extensible through APIs.”

This level of cloud adoption is fundamentally more sustainable and robust in terms of infrastructure and is a profound transformation for the organisation. It requires significant investment and time spent on strategy, but the result is a business that is more responsive and resilient. A business that is capable of flexing and pivoting with far more ease than it could in the past. This introduces numerous business benefits that include agility, resilience, scale, and growth.

“Cloud technologies, whether public or private or hybrid, are far more capable of pivoting to meet business requirements,” says Tullett. “Companies with this level of cloud investment can deploy new capabilities on demand, move in new directions, and break down unused resources. They can shuffle and flex and adapt as needed – all highly relevant skills in a world defined by uncertainty and change.”

The industry also benefits from this level of cloud commitment. Indirectly, it benefits from the value derived by organisations in terms of performance and reliability; directly it benefits from supply chain transformation. As entire supply chains move through the transformation process, cloud capabilities introduce the integrated supply chain efficiencies that can multiply benefits for all. But when it comes to business continuity and resilience, this is where deep cloud investment really comes to the fore.

“It’s a lot easier for cloud infrastructure to rapidly provision resources or roll back damage during a continuity event,” says Tullett. “Applying legacy continuity practices to a cloud-era business is like giving a sports car a wagon wheel for a spare – it might technically get you back on the road, but it won’t perform to spec. COVID-19 was a superb demonstration of sudden disruption and transformed businesses were far better positioned to continue with just that, business.”

Adaptive infrastructure and ICT practices were what defined success in the pandemic, not just planning for a global crisis. Businesses with this level of flexibility are much better positioned to take advantage of new market opportunities, regardless of whether these opportunities are taking place in a pandemic or not. Thanks to cloud transformation, these organisations are more agile and more robust, however, it is worth noting that the business should not forgo additional continuity investments. While the cloud is uniquely suited to providing continuity solutions in a landscape that is consistently evolving, there is still the need to protect data, provision fail-over resources, and regularly test capabilities. No one system is infallible, failover is essential.

“There are several cloud applications that should be the focus of any investment with regards to building business resilience,” says Tullett. “ERP solutions offer a big win and CRM and HRM platforms are currently taking the lead in cloud transformation as well. There are numerous advantages to adopting new solutions and extending existing applications with new capabilities.”

These investments not only layer on resilience but allow for richer scope and scale when it comes to connecting partners and third parties, applying deeper data analytics, improving user experiences, and providing automation and remote infrastructure management. Having the capability to do all this without interruption during a crisis is immensely valuable, and it can consistently empower the business outside of crisis conditions. For the front office, productivity should be at the forefront of the business strategy. Cloud investment can provide users with access to modernised front-end services that are accessible from any device with streamlined interfaces that integrate multiple data sources and services. It is all about interconnectivity and data relevance, and the cloud brings these together, seamlessly.

“Cloud was invariably central to the process of organisations reinventing business processes and accelerating digital transformation during the pandemic,” concludes Tullett. “It is underpinning transformation if done intelligently and if aligned with best practice. The risks in the cloud are like those in the non-cloud world, so focus on minimizing security risks, strategic investment as opposed to innovation and hype, and trusted partnerships.”

Cloud does not remove the need to invest in basic disaster recovery and business continuity solutions, it just makes it easier to evolve these in concert with the rest of the organisation’s infrastructure. This is not the great panacea that will solve all enterprise problems, but it is an intelligent and customisable resource that can put the organisation on the fast track for innovation, disruption, and transformative infrastructure.

Jon Tullett is the Research Manager for IT Services at International Data Corporation (IDC) South Africa.