[South Africa] Cloud platform builder Jini Guru partners with Azilen to build advanced payment and banking solutions

Local cloud platform builder, Jini Guru, has partnered with Azilen Technologies, a product engineering company, to build innovative fintech solutions for emerging markets.

Mike Smits, co-founder, Jini Guru, says that the collaboration between the two companies brings immense skills to the local fintech market.

“Azilen has over a decade of lean product engineering experience across a variety of vertical sectors. Together with Jini Guru’s local fintech knowledge and experience, we are excited to build solutions that extend across payment and banking applications,” says Smits.

The South African financial service industry is in a disruptive phase with many new market entrants challenging traditional business models: “Servicing the unbanked is one of many significant market opportunities. There are many market players attempting to gain access to this R23B cash economy within the fintech space,” says Smits.

“Azilen is proud to collaborate with Jini Guru. Working closely together will open up avenues to successfully leverage and exchange our fintech industry knowledge and capabilities to build robust digital payment solutions,” says Naresh Prajapati, CEO of Azilen Technologies.

Extending across payment, banking and wallet applications; integration services, payment gateway services and location-based security systems, the Jini Guru and Azilen partnership will bring additional scale and cost savings for the South African fintech space as well as the technical expertise needed to assist clients to meet the digitally evolving needs of their customer-base.

“We were looking for a product development partner that has solid user experience and the technology expertise to digitise our fintech product ideas and business concepts. Azilen Technologies impressed us with their domain expertise during the product visioning process and we are ready to extend these services to the broader market,” says Smits.

www.jini.guru

www.azilen.com

[South Africa] ACS transforms Disaster Recovery with VMware and Routed

ACS, a division of Altron that provides secure data hosting and networking for not only the Altron Group of companies but also external customers across South Africa, has announced the strengthening of its partnership with VMware Cloud Provider partner Routed. The partnership’s aim is to enhance ACS’s current disaster recovery (DR) offering with a more scalable and efficient cloud-based solution.

“We provide the secure hosting of transactional data as well as applications which contain a significant amount of private and critical information. Given the sensitivity of this data, it must always be available. Our previous solution required significant granular manual intervention when we needed to switch customers over to DR. It was therefore essential to implement a more cost-effective solution that could cope with the massive amount of data that needed to be transported across to the DR data centre,” says Mira Andric, ACS Operations and Delivery Manager.

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Andrew Cruise, MD of Routed Hosting who is the first VMware Cloud Verified Partner (VCPP) in Africa, says the previous ACS DR solution was not only difficult to manage, but it was manual-driven for recovery and tied to their storage resulting in an inflexible environment.

“Because ACS runs VMware inside their data centre and they themselves are a VCPP, it made sense to deliver a solution that combines our respective expertise in the VMware ecosystem. They are quite forward-thinking to approach another service provider partner to deliver a best-of-breed offering rather than try do everything themselves,” he says.

 “We were looking for a VCPP partner that could integrate well with what we already had in place. It was not a case of reinventing the wheel but rather implement something that could take the business to the next level.” Andric adds.

ACS implemented VCloud availability and shipped over 30TB of data within two weeks. The entire project took three months to complete with ACS now running a full DR-as-a-service (DRaaS) offering incorporating the reliability, availability, and security needed.

“ACS is providing customers with a self-service portal where they can ensure that the DR systems are available and up and running at a moment’s notice. Our engagement with Routed has been a partnership, and they have been actively involved in setting the systems up with us and our IT teams,” she says.

According to Andric, this has enabled ACS to complete the project on time and within budget.

“The cost savings have already started coming through. What is most important for us is that Routed has demonstrated that the VCloud offering is running the way it should at a price that is affordable to our customers. Furthermore, the IT teams within our customer environment understand the solution and it is incredibly user-friendly,” says Andric.

Running DRaaS is traditionally quite complex as those are the systems that companies do not require daily.

“However, Routed guided us on this complex path and empowered us to deliver a self-service platform to our customers. Now, within five clicks, the DR system is up and running. The VMware system is just a pleasure to run when you need it most. It has provided us and our customers with a good night’s sleep because they know that when they need it, DR will be done as effectively and securely as possible,” she says.

According to Cruise, ACS can deliver this solution to not only Altron Group companies but also external customers.

“ACS can provide a suite of services that speak to the security and compliance requirements of the digital age. And all this is delivered with the availability and reliability of a VMware cloud solution,” he concludes.

www.acs.altech.co.za

[Nigeria] Actis acquires majority stake in Rack Centre, announces plans to build a $250 million African data centre platform

Leading investor of private capital into global emerging markets, Actis has acquired a majority stake in Nigeria’s leading, independent, co-location business, Rack Centre. 

Rack Centre owns and operates a certified Tier III data centre in Lagos. It has the largest installed capacity in West Africa hosting over 80 international, regional and local clients. With over 35 carriers connecting to the facility, as well as hosting Nigeria’s internet exchange, Rack Centre is the most connected facility in the region and links every country on Africa’s Atlantic coast.

The investment into Rack Centre will fund a rapid expansion of the data centre, doubling the existing modular capacity and developing a traditional-build scale data centre on the same premises. This will create the largest data centre outside South Africa with hosting capacity in excess of 10MW over the near term.

Actis is already one of the largest real estate and power generation investors in Africa. The firm has also created a Chinese data centre platform, Chayora Holdings, to develop hyperscale data centre facilities in Tianjin and is exploring other Asian markets.

 “We have been tracking the data centre market in Africa closely, building relationships with key operators and customers. Africa is at an inflection point and we expect to see an explosion in growth of demand for hosting capacity in independently owned data centres across the continent.” David Morley, Head of Real Estate at Actis, said:

“We are excited about this new partnership with Rack Centre and its promoter Jagal Investments.  Together they have built a strong business of international repute, hosting a compelling mix of customers ranging from leading Nigerian corporates to global cloud majors.” he added. 

Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director of Rack Centre said “It has been a great honour to lead the growth of Rack Centre to become one of the most respected carrier neutral data centre brands in West Africa. Rack Centre is now at a key juncture and my team and I are excited with being part of the future growth. With over 750kW of installed capacity, it is now doubling capacity to 1.5MW of IT power at the currently location on a trajectory to 10MW”

 “Jagal is excited with its new partnership with Actis. Rack Centre has developed into a leading and respected African brand and it is now at a critical stage for investment and growth. Actis understands global and emerging markets and will be a fantastic partner for the next phase of the Rack Centre journey” Maher Jarmakani, CEO of Jagal added. 

Actis is the largest private equity GP in Africa having committed US$4.5bn to the region over the last 15 years.

Actis has also announced plans to establish a US$250 million pan-African data centre platform. The buy and build platform according to the company will comprise of independently owned, carrier neutral, data centres across key African markets.

www.act.is

www.rack-centre.com

[Kenya] Safaricom to accelerate cloud adoption in with Amazon Web Services

Safaricom has announced a strategic agreement with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which will see the Telco become a reseller of AWS services.

Safaricom has announced a strategic agreement with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which will see the Telco become a reseller of AWS services.

The agreement is designed to accelerate Safaricom’s internal IT transformation, lower costs and provide it with a blueprint and skilled resources to assist customers with their journey to the cloud.

“We chose to partner with AWS because it offers customers the broadest and deepest cloud platform, overall commitment to security excellence, and a strong culture of customer obsession. This agreement will allow us to accelerate our efforts to enable digital transformation in Kenya,” said Michael Joseph, Chief Executive Officer, Safaricom.

In addition, Safaricom will be able to offer AWS services to East-African customers, allowing businesses of all sizes to quickly get started on AWS cloud and accelerate innovation.

Safaricom also announced the attainment of Advanced Consulting Partner status in the AWS Partner Network (APN), becoming one of the first APN members in East Africa. The APN is the global partner program for technology and consulting businesses who leverage AWS to build solutions and services for customers.

The APN helps companies build, market, and sell their AWS offerings by providing valuable business, technical, and marketing support. This achievement recognizes the skills, knowledge and experience in AWS cloud services that the Safaricom PLC team has gained.

Safaricom’s announcement to work with AWS has been met with interest by customers, with enterprises, startups, and government agencies expressing a desire to use the partnership to build their cloud strategy.

www.safaricom.co.ke

[South Africa] Cloud market moving from supply-driven to demand-driven, says Routed

Vendor neutral cloud infrastructure provider, Routed, says that four years ago the development of the local cloud landscape was still in its infancy. Managing Director, Andrew Cruise, says that in the time since launching Routed, cloud demand has increased: “The market is moving from supply-driven to demand-driven. While the enterprise sector has taken time to embrace the cloud-concept, we have noted an increase in demand from these organisations.”

He says that the enterprise sector has moved into the driving seat, demanding cloud solutions. This about-turn was predicted according to Cruise: “We knew that the industry needed time to mature and better understand what digitilisation would mean to the success and longevity of their businesses. Where four years ago, owned equipment (either on-premise or collocated) was the outright preference as opposed to public or private cloud, we are now seeing a shift.”

While this shift may imply significant movement, Cruise cautions that cloud growth locally remains small. In particular, private cloud uptake is low and in fact, he says it has never really taken off: “The issue with private cloud is that the definitions tend to vary, which makes it difficult to understand or obtain a firm view of the uptake. Bear in mind that having dedicated equipment that is virtualised does not mean that it is a private cloud.

“When considering public cloud, the local sector seems to have a mixed bag of hosting implementations, but very few that are comparable to a true cloud experience, similar to that provided by the hyperscalers.”

Cloud platform providers have launched some compelling products that will assist in the migration to, and provide easy management of applications in, a legitimate public cloud, but still offer it in a secure and private way: VMWare’s vCloud Director is the standout example.

Lack of cloud skills remains another issue the industry has to address. Cruise says that the channel needs to address their ability to implement bona fide cloud strategies: “It is very important to ensure that you select the correct cloud partner. They need to focus on cloud as their primary business and have the skills to architect, deploy, secure, manage and support cloud infrastructure.”

www.routed.co.za

[Nigeria] MDXi to unveil first locally available Microsoft Stack Cloud in partnership with Microsoft

MDXi, MainOne’s data center subsidiary, will announce the local offering of Microsoft’s Azure Stack to its customers as part of its ‘Managed Cloud Services’. The Stack platform provided in partnership with Microsoft and HPE will be unveiled at MainOne’s 5th annual gathering of customers, partners and tech professionals, called Nerds Unite.

With the introduction of the local offering of Microsoft’s Azure Stack services, MDXi will be the first data center in Nigeria to offer the Cloud service commercially to customers in Nigeria. This latest Cloud offering by MDXi into the Nigerian market, will reinforce MainOne’s leadership positioning in the Cloud market, enabling the company to offer its customer a broader suite of cloud solutions. Ranging from managed Cloud deployment on public and private Cloud services in the MDXi data center, to management of offshore deployment on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure, in addition to Express Route services that enable secure, reliable communications to cloud services offshore.

Showcasing at the launch will be some of the benefits of MDXi’s Azure Stack in processing in-country data and applications thereby reducing customer latency to under 10ms and resulting in better experiences for end users. The demo will also showcase cost effective data storage solutions that allow businesses meet all their data sovereignty requirements with locally domiciled infrastructure.

The new Cloud services platform will offer enterprises and businesses the choice of a scalable, flexible computing platform to enable them to migrate critical applications from legacy technology to modernized and more efficient technology without having to go offshore.

“MDXi has been in the business of providing Cloud services to its Enterprise customers for over 5 years, with skilled and certified engineers. We are the data center of choice for Enterprise looking to host data locally in the Cloud. With the introduction of the Azure Stack solution, we further demonstrate our commitment to investing in Cloud infrastructure in order to continually meet the changing and growing requirements of our customers in Nigeria, and indeed across West Africa. Our partnership with Microsoft and investment in HPE infrastructure to deploy the Cloud platform continues to position MDXi as the West Africa’s leading communications solution provider, delivering world-class quality services to our local customers.” said Gbenga Adegbiji, General Manager, MDXi.

Nerds Unite, MainOne’s flagship event of the year, brings together IT professionals, influencers, and decision makers in an environment for one full day to connect, discover opportunities, collaborate, and learn new techniques and breakthrough trends in the global IT industry. This year’s edition will feature presentations and panel discussions on Cloud adoption, Cloud migration and all things Cloud with global leaders across West Africa, making it the perfect platform for MDXI to unveil its new Cloud services.

MDXi builds and operates Tier III data center campuses across West Africa to meet the rapidly expanding global demand for certified data centre facilities. It’s Tier III data center in Lekki, Lagos-Nigeria, is the largest purpose-built commercial data center in West Africa, designed with a strong focus on high availability, security, and open access connectivity. Its facilities have operated with 100% uptime since inception.

www.mainone.net

Cloud usage drives cybersecurity spending, SANS 2020 report

The rapid migration to cloud-based technologies is the biggest disrupter worldwide of operations and a key driver when organisations plan their spending increases, according to the results of the latest SANS 2020 Cybersecurity Spending Survey.

“The SANS survey showed that rapid movement of corporate services and business applications to cloud-based technology is the biggest factor causing breakage in existing security architectures as well as driving most new security spending,” says John Pescatore, SANS Director of Emerging Security Trends. “Cloud monitoring and cloud security access controls were the top two spending areas, followed by spending to increase security staff skills to deal with new technologies, such as the cloud, and to keep up with changes in regulations as well as new threats.”

Slightly more than 50% of respondents ranked the increased use of public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) implementations as the biggest disrupter to security programs in the next 12 months. Based on that, 71% of respondents reported seeing a need to increase spending on cloud security monitoring, followed by cloud access security broker cloud-specific tools (53%), staff skills training (52%) and strong authentication (46%). 

Overall, 57% of respondents feel that out of people, process and technology, an increased investment in people would provide the biggest improvement to their overall security posture, followed distantly by process (19%) and technology (18%). 

“Managers see increased and refreshed skills in their existing staff as being significantly more critical than simply increasing headcount,” according to Barbara Filkins, SANS Analyst Program Research Director and author of the report. “The fact that respondents prioritise increasing staff skills significantly over increasing headcount to deal with ‘disruptive technologies,’ especially when faced with escalating privacy regulations—and fines—worldwide, is not surprising. Business use of IaaS and hybrid cloud requires re-architecting security controls and integrating with CI/CD methodologies.”

In a series of follow-up interviews with selected survey respondents, security managers recognise the need for “upskilling” to increase retention rates, which improves both effectiveness and efficiency. Increased skills around new technologies and new security techniques is also required to enable any use of security automation technologies, which were not highly cited for spending increases in 2020.

Strong authentication, the fourth most highly cited area of planned new spending, points to the recognition that the majority of damage from breaches and ransomware attacks in the past year were enabled by the use of reusable passwords that were easily captured via phishing attacks. CEOs and boards of directors are backing security teams in overcoming obstacles to implementing multifactor authentication.

The report can be downloaded from the SANS website

www.sans.org

[Column] Andrew Cruise: Mastering the complexity of multicloud in 2020

As enterprises’ demands look set to continue maturing in 2020, they are better able to distinguish between cloud platforms and identify which ones work best for their applications. “It’s no longer about moving to cloud, it’s about which cloud,” says Andrew Cruise, managing director at Routed, Africa’s only vendor neutral cloud infrastructure provider.

“Now that market penetration of cloud, particularly internationally, has hit a critical mass, we see enterprises are much more confident about moving workloads than before when it appeared they would be on the bleeding edge. While there are still some concerns around uptime, performance and security, these are largely being addressed without any need to reinvent the wheel,” he says.

Multicloud is already broadly being achieved through SaaS applications like Salesforce.com and Office365, through utilising an enterprise’s own on-premise infrastructure, and via several other cloud platforms. “True multicloud however, involves IaaS from multiple providers across native hyperscale IaaS (or PaaS) as well as private cloud, both hosted and on-premise.” In order to successfully implement multicloud, Cruise notes that an enterprise would need to replace parts of their overall infrastructure estate, either by re-hosting workloads (lift and shift) into a hosted private cloud, or re-architecting applications in a cloud-native way to suit native hyperscale clouds. Secure connectivity, either through VPN, SD-WAN or private circuit, is also must.

He adds that because the biggest benefit of multicloud is the way in which it lends itself to a best of breed approach. “Not one single cloud can ever be the silver bullet to solve all an enterprise’s problems. Cloud only, hybrid cloud, or on-premise only solutions are already legacy and too restrictive. Utilising a hosted private cloud for traditional applications as an initial ‘lift-and-shift’ can make it easier to digitally transform by alleviating pressures on on-premise resources and allow them time to properly re-architect suitable applications in the native hyperscale cloud.”

While the benefits of multicloud are impossible to overlook, enterprises need to think carefully about the best strategies for managing the complexity of multicloud environments. It is not possible to manage multicloud effectively on-demand, manually, without automation, says Cruise. Similarly, human expertise will always be required.  Any kind of one-size-fits-all thinking is bound to fail. Further, workload migration between on-premise and cloud and between cloud and cloud is non-trivial and the difficulties should not be underestimated. Unless one standardises on a single platform across multiple clouds, for example, VMware ESXi (which is available on local VMware cloud providers and on all the major hyperscalers too), the ideal of frictionless migration between clouds is a pipedream,” he says.

Andrew Cruise is the managing director at Routed.

[Column] Johan Scheeper: Be data ready in 2020 by tackling key data issues

Data is an intrinsic part of business processes and also a source of competitive differentiation thanks to the potential of data analytics

Data is an intrinsic part of business processes and also a source of competitive differentiation thanks to the potential of data analytics. Data has become a mission critical business asset, which means that organisations need to be able to discover, protect and use it effectively and in a timely manner.

This concept is known as being ‘data ready’. While there are many factors affecting an organisation’s data readiness, three key issues will be prevalent in 2020: ransomware, multi-cloud environments and data compliance regulations. Tackling these key data issues can help organisations to be data ready in 2020.

Ransomware is rampant

Ransomware is a threat to each and every business today. In fact, it is so prevalent that an attack has become a matter of ‘when’ and no longer ‘if’. High-profile data breaches were a common theme in 2019, and many attacks caused several days of service outages.

A new malware threat called ‘wiper’ is also becoming increasingly prevalent. This malicious software does exactly as the name suggests – rather than holding data to ransom by encrypting it, it actually erases it from its storage media. This changes the game completely.

A data wipe is not about money, it is completely malicious and an outright hostile attack. Paying the ransom or de-encrypting ransomed data by other means is not an option. If you do not have an effective backup and recovery solution in place, and you are ‘hit’ by a successful wiper attack, your data is gone.

The ability to recover from a malware attack involves more than Disaster Recovery (DR). Manual backups and attached storage can also be infected, which means that having multiple backups is no longer enough. Being data ready in the case of malware means we have to think differently about business continuity.

It is imperative to have strategies in place to detect anomalous behaviour within data storage as well as backups and archived, so that attacks can be identified quickly and suspicious behaviour can trigger alerts to notify the correct people.

The key to a data ready recovery system is rapid, frequent and separated backups that allow you to bring key systems back online immediately while you ascertain where an attack came from, isolate it and remove it.

Managing data in multiple clouds

Most organisations already exist in a multi-cloud environment, even if they are unaware of this fact. Whether it is a hosted Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, Office 365 or some form of cloud storage like Google Drive or iCloud, these solutions are frequently found in the makeup of businesses. On the other side of the coin, there is also no organisation that is completely 100% in the cloud.

This multi-cloud hybrid scenario creates the need to be able to move data between systems. There are many reasons why data may need to be moved, either between clouds or between the cloud and the premises. The underlying common factor is that business models need change, so data architecture needs to be able to adapt. This is part of data readiness – the ability to drive economies between cloud and on-premises solutions to maximise cost and benefit while minimising risk.

This, in turn, requires central visibility into all data across all of the various areas of storage. It is critical to data readiness to have a central management layer or platform in place to consolidate the view of data across the organisation. Without this visibility, it is impossible to migrate data to leverage the best provider or location to meet changing business needs.

Meeting compliance requirements

Data is becoming increasingly regulated and it is not enough to know that you have the data, you also need to understand the purpose for which it was collected. Companies must have a record of the consent from the consumer to use the data for its intended purpose and the ability to comply with the ‘right to forget’ should the consumer request this. This is an imperative of all data privacy regulations.

Data readiness means having a way of consistently knowing where data is, what type of data it is and the sensitivity of the information. This requires specific tools, as manually identifying sensitive data is simply not possible given the volumes of data in business today. It is also important to enable search and discovery to enable the ‘right to forget’ and then prove that the data has been removed, including from backups.

Be data ready in 2020

It is absolutely essential today to know what data you have, the purpose for which it was collected, and that it is adequately protected and can be recovered in the event of a data loss event. It is also critical to ensure that backups are protected and that they are tested to ensure that data recovery is possible.

Data readiness enables business agility by ensuring that data is available at all times in the right location to the right people. This means that your data can be leveraged to create business value. However, it is impossible to manage what you do not know exists.

Essentially, the ability to deal with pressing issues such as ransomware, the multi-cloud and compliance boils down to data governance and effective data management, which lie at the heart of data readiness.

Johan Scheepers is the Country Head at Commvault in South Africa. 

Microsoft and Genesys partner to provide enterprises with new cloud services

Microsoft is teaming up with Genesys to provide organisations around the globe with new cloud services for contact centres that will enable them to deliver superior interactions for customers. 

With the omnichannel customer experience solution, Genesys Engage™, running on Microsoft Azure, enterprises have the security and scalability they need to manage the complexities involved with connecting every touchpoint throughout the customer journey.

Genesys Engage on Microsoft Azure will be available in late 2020. To accelerate adoption, the companies are providing Genesys Engage on Microsoft Azure through a joint co-selling and go-to-market strategy. Customers will benefit from a streamlined buying process that puts them on a clear path to the cloud.

With its multi-tenant architecture, Genesys Engage on Microsoft Azure will give customers the ability to innovate faster and improve their business agility. In addition, by running the Genesys customer experience solution on this dependable cloud environment, enterprises will be able to maximise their investment in Microsoft Azure through simplified management and maintenance requirements, centralised IT expertise, reduced costs and more. These solutions make it easier for enterprises to leverage cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies so they can gain deeper insights and provide tailor-made experiences for their customers.

Nemo Verbist, senior vice president of Intelligent Business and Intelligent Workplace at NTT Ltd one of the top five global technology and services providers for the world’s largest enterprises and a partner of both Microsoft and Genesys said, “Many of our customers have standardised on Microsoft solutions, and Genesys Engage on Microsoft Azure gives them an additional opportunity to take advantage of their investment. Together, these solutions provide enterprises a secure and powerful foundation to communicate with their customers in creative and meaningful ways.”

“Large contact centres receive an exceptionally high volume of inquiries across a growing list of channels and platforms. One of the biggest challenges is connecting the details of every interaction across all channels to ensure each customer has a seamless experience,” said Kate Johnson, president, Microsoft U.S. “By leveraging Microsoft’s Azure cloud and AI technologies, Genesys is helping enterprises create a seamless customer journey with Microsoft’s trusted, secure, and scalable platform.”

“We are thrilled to give large enterprises the opportunity to run their mission-critical customer experience platform in the cloud environment they already know and trust — Microsoft Azure,” said Peter Graf, chief strategy officer of Genesys. “Together, we’re making it simpler for even the most complex organizations to transition to the cloud, enabling them to unlock efficiencies and accelerate innovation so they can build deeper connections with customers.”

The companies are also exploring and developing new integrations for Genesys and Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Azure Cognitive Services to streamline collaboration and communications for employees and customers.

www.microsoft.com

www.genesys.com