[Column] Flora Kangethe: Customer service to backend – How cloud-based AI enables modernisation of business

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is proving to be a key technology in delivering improved customer experience and exceeding customer expectations. It is also a highly effective way for countries to achieve their economic growth and sustainability objectives.

In Kenya, emerging digital technologies are considered a significant part of national development plans, and have enjoyed significant support from the country’s leaders. This has led to the introduction of a host of development initiatives that leverage the potential of the latest cloud technologies that are powered by machine learning.

Possibly the most notable early adopter of AI in Kenya is the Kenyan government itself, which is also one of the top performers in Africa as per the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2019. According to the report, it’s estimated that AI will add US$15 trillion to the global economy by 2030. However, the report findings also reveal that governments in the Global North are still better positioned to reap the benefits of AI than their southern counterparts. This poses a risk to countries in the Global South as they may not be fully prepared to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As noted in the Readiness Index 2019 report, “AI has the power to transform the way governments around the world deliver public services. In turn, this could greatly improve citizens’ experiences of government. Governments are already implementing AI in their operations and service delivery, to improve efficiency, save time and money, and deliver better quality public services.”

As one example of their efforts to improve the local socio-economic direction of the country, the Kenyan government has committed to using AI to help assess citizens’ eligibility for affordable housing. The AI technology will assist in allocating 500,000 new affordable homes by checking applicants’ credit histories and smartphone wallet transaction history sourced through the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB).

The government is also making use of AI technology to verify and authenticate voters during election campaigns. Biometric technology was used by the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) to ensure that votes were cast only after fingerprint and photo authentication.

Oracle is the first organisation to take AI even further by embedding this technology in its cloud applications. By leveraging AI organisations can unlock significant value not only for their customers but for themselves in the form of greater operational efficiencies and cost savings.

AI in customer service

A best practise AI use case is in customer service. When used in this area of the business, chatbots can reduce the cost to serve customers, while improving the response time, consistency and quality of customer interactions. Similar benefits arise when the chatbot is customer-facing or when used by agents themselves to augment their knowledge.

Oracle recently announced the extended and evolved availability of its AI-trained Oracle Digital Assistant. Now users can use voice commands to communicate with their Oracle enterprise applications to drive desired actions and outcomes. The technology enriches the user experience with conversational AI, simplifying interactions and improving productivity.

This feature has already been of exceptional importance to the international organisation, Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IBVI), who employ blind people for a wide range of jobs – from assembly to various customer service and office roles. Switching to Oracle Cloud Applications, the organisation aims to improve product quality and accuracy around factors such as shipment status and inventory.

Since implementing the new Oracle Cloud Applications with Oracle Digital Assistant, IBVI has been able to create new independent roles (no sighted assistance required, where one sighted person for every four blind employees was required previously) in customer service, human resources, and financial management.

It’s not just about chatbots: Automation across both sales and marketing processes can improve quote-to-cash turnaround times and reduce administrative workloads while allowing for a level of personalised messaging to customers that were previously unachievable. As these examples attest, AI-embedded cloud systems have the power to deliver value whether as the mechanism for customer interaction (as in the case of chatbots) or in support of those responsible for it.

AI in HR

For Kenya – the highest-ranked African nation on the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2019 – to stay ahead of the AI curb, the focus needs to be shifted to the adoption of cloud-based business systems that embed the technology in the application itself, unlocking automation capabilities by default.

HR is one such example, where the use of AI to understand and automate processes, can lead to significant efficiency gains. It can be used to identify staff who may be thinking about leaving or to recommend learning paths, thereby reducing employee attrition.

In the world of procurement, the use of AI within Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can identify deviations from compliance requirements in contracting, enforce approval processes, and automate requisition through invoice matching and payment. The automation of these processes allows organisations to reliably produce outcomes while enabling their employees to focus on tasks that deliver more strategic value to the organisation.

Much has been made of the abilities of AI to bring significant value to the customer – and rightly so. AI can produce repeatable, scalable, and reliable outcomes for customers, improving their overall experience. However, AI can also deliver enormous efficiency through various lines of business and across roles, creating a more streamlined organisation that is more able to focus on creating client value.

Flora Kangetheis the Applications Sales Director, Oracle Kenya

[Egypt] American University in Cairo moves to Ellucian cloud to drive innovation and digital transformation

Ellucian, the leading provider of software and services built to power higher education has announced that the American University in Cairo (AUC), an Ellucian customer since 1995, has decided to move its Ellucian Banner student information systems (SIS) to the cloud. Moving its SIS to the cloud is the first step in AUC’s larger mission to drive innovation for student success.

As AUC embarks on an ambitious strategy to digitally transform the university experience, it will focus on three main goals: real-time access to services and information from digital touchpoints, open yet secure data, and innovation beyond the campus. The basis of this transformation is cloud technology and will require AUC to move all IT systems to the cloud.

“AUC is on a continuous journey to enhance its student experience by adopting state of the art transformative technologies that will support and enable students in all facets of their study at AUC. We also needed to follow a technology framework that would allow us to maintain and excel in our services, and ensure compliance and security while maintaining agility and flexibility necessary for today’s organization,” said American University in Cairo Associate Vice President for Digital Innovation and Chief Strategy Officer, Iman Megahed. “This simply meant adopting a robust cloud strategy and maintaining strategic partnerships that would value our student’s needs and support our institutions priorities.”

Choosing Banner Cloud gives AUC a springboard to move other technology to the cloud and enables the integration of solutions across all departments. Banner cloud allows AUC to easily access the most current application releases and provide the most modern, mobile user experience to students and faculty alike.

“All aspects of this project have been closely evaluated and we knew it would be a lot of work – but only initially,” said American University in Cairo Project Manager Shereen Gamal. “Moving to the cloud was our best option for relief from the ongoing overhead of system maintenance, troubleshooting and upgrades. Everything on the cloud is managed by the vendor, hence we know that we will always receive the best quality of service.”

“Cloud is the new era for technology. We are very excited about the agility that the cloud experience will offer us, said American University of Cairo Director, Technology Solutions Nouran Maher. “No more downtime and no more running out of resources during peak times. We will be able to deliver what we promise to our students––a reliable, robust and innovative system.”

“We are excited to partner with AUC as they move to the cloud and embark on their student-focused digital transformation,” said Ellucian President and CEO Laura Ipsen. “AUC is dedicated to leading the way on global trends, not just to attract students in today’s market, but also to ensure they are using the latest technology as they innovate for tomorrow.”

www.ellucian.com

[Column] Benjamin Coetzer: 2020 – the year containerisation dominates PaaS

How will infrastructure evolve and provide the sourcing, migration and delivery of services for today’s digital migration? According to Benjamin Coetzer, Director, Routed – a vendor neutral cloud infrastructure developer, Platform as a Service in conjunction with the rising trend of containerisation, is busy delivering these answers.

As of 2019, Gartner says that the total Platform as a Service (PaaS) market contains more than 360 vendors, offering more than 550 cloud platform services in 21 categories. Gartner expects that, from 2018 to 2022, the market will double in size and that PaaS will be the prevailing platform delivery model moving forward.

Coetzer says that the adoption of PaaS has boomed leading to an increasing and subsequent uptake of containerisation: “Enterprises are embracing containers at a much faster pace than expected, giving rise to Containerisation as a Service (CaaS). The thriving open source community combined with the availability of mature commercial offerings has given much needed confidence to enterprise customers.”

He says that containers will redefine the hybrid cloud by bridging the gap between legacy and modern applications and on-premises and public cloud infrastructure.

“As software providers become more comfortable with building out containerised applications and consuming PaaS offerings, more and more responsibilities will be moved away from consumers of cloud infrastructure.  What will become vital is workload mobility, the ability to move applications between cloud infrastructure providers, to avoid vendor lock-in scenarios, which is a huge risk currently,” says Coetzer.

Migration from on-premise to cloud, or cloud-to-cloud remains fairly primitive and will become crucial for adoption in the years to come. Coetzer says that VMware is already working towards a multi-cloud management platform to enable this scenario. He expects more vendors to develop competing offerings but says that the VMWare platform is currently leading this race.

“Containers are changing the way resources and services are consumed by developers, from internal or external cloud infrastructure providers. It’s also introducing new networking and security challenges, which are being addressed by NFV solutions. There are some exciting projects that are changing the face of private cloud infrastructure hosting facilities, while the cloud giants Azure and AWS have been feverishly innovating Kubernetes-as-a-Service offerings and expanding on their already vast Platform-as-a-Service offerings,’ says Coetzer.

According to Forbes, Kubernetes has become the front and centre of enterprise container platforms. From traditional OS vendors to modern PaaS providers, every major platform vendor has a commercial Kubernetes offering making it the new operating system of the data centre. Traditional PaaS has gradually transformed into a container management platform. PaaS industry leaders have embraced Kubernetes as the foundation of their platforms and according to Forbes, 2019 will witness the complete transformation of PaaS into CaaS.

Coetzer sees this trend extending locally making 2020 an exciting year for further digital transformation.

Benjamin Coetzer is the Director of cloud service provider Routed.

[South Africa ] Cloud ERP solutions provider One Channel launches new ERP

One Channel, Africa’s leading cloud ERP solutions provider and Acumatica partner, has announced the Acumatica 2019 R2 release. This latest version of cloud ERP contains more than 100 improvements, enhancements and new features.

The new and practical innovations in Acumatica 2019 R2 make Acumatica even easier to use and customise. They really enhance Acumatica’s unique cross-functional workflows, which allow a user to move from CRM to Construction to Manufacturing to Distribution screens seamlessly in real-time, resulting in improved accuracy and productivity.

One Channel CEO Bernard Ford says many of the Acumatica 2019 R2 improvements and new features were the result of community suggestions on the Acumatica Feedback Site subsequently vetted and selected through Focus Groups.

“Product excellence is a key focus of Acumatica. Significant advances have been made across the Acumatica Cloud xRP Platform, further improvements added to Acumatica’s award-winning business functionality, and new capabilities built into the specialised Acumatica Industry Editions,” he explains.

Usability advances include new mobile enabled user-defined fields, conditional formatting, and advanced workflow engine with global messaging capabilities. A new Pivot Table Widget for Dashboards allows users to take actions based on summary information.

Enhanced Power BI and Tableau capabilities are joined by Google G-suite integration to enhance user productivity with third party tools. Predefined User Roles and new data migration templates accelerate implementation and reduce time to value for new customers. Mobile expense management enhancements include addition of Corporate credit card use by multiple resources with automated reconciliation.

Ford says Financial Management now includes the application of payments to particular lines of Accounts Payable Documents, allowing users to assign partial payment to an entire AP document or to individual document lines in various proportions.

“The system also supports tracking retainage by document, approval of AR Invoices, Credit Memos, and Debit Memos for companies requiring advanced approval workflows. Accrual of the Costs for Non-Stock Items provide improved visibility into profitability well in advance of expense recognition of services performed,” he says.

Responding to community requests, the restricted use of control accounts prevents otherwise out of balance mistakes. Payment application process has been honed to minimise clicks and improve the speed of processing multiple payments.

Acumatica Manufacturing Edition 2019 R2 enhances Engineering Change Control (ECC), streamlining multiple change requests by optionally grouping them for approval process, and displaying them in bill-of-material comparisons. The Bill of Materials (BOM) has advanced visualisation tools and reports to improve usability. Material Requirements Planning (MRP) has improved forecasting and exception handling.

Acumatica Field Service Edition supports new cross-module workflows with integrated Project Accounting supporting service contracts, project schedules, tasks, and cost codes by service order type. Visual calendar boards feature real-time mapping and travel estimates for service appointments based on current traffic information from Microsoft’s Bing mapping service.

Construction Edition adds tracking of Daily Field Reports to provide all stakeholders visibility to timely information. Users can now use two-tier change management capabilities to effectively manage change workflow. Enhanced lien waiver functionality avoids accidental or premature vendor payments.

www.onechannel.co.za

[South Africa] Poor data management costs companies millions each year

Companies are failing to meet user demand for uninterrupted access to applications and data and it is costing them millions each year. They are now looking to embrace Cloud Data Management to better meet protection needs and leverage the power of their data, this is according to the 2019 Veeam Cloud Data Management Report.

The Report surveyed more than 1500 senior business and IT leaders from 13 countries and found that respondents are aware of the importance of data management to their business’ success, pointing to greater productivity today, and the potential to drive business transformation in the future.

The amount of data generated has exploded over the past decade; data growth and sprawl is so rampant that by 2025 more than 175 Zettabytes of data will be generated each year, up almost 75% from 2018.

Troye managing director Helen Kruger says companies need to manage and protect this data, no matter where it resides. “The latest industry survey from Veeam Software, the leader in Backup solutions that enable Cloud Data Management, states that 73% of organisations admit to not being able to meet users’ demands for uninterrupted access to data and services.”

“This highlights the devastating impact downtime can have on lost revenue, productivity and customer confidence. However, the study shows that business leaders are acting to combat this, with nearly 72% looking to embrace Cloud Data Management, often by exploiting hybrid cloud capabilities, to ensure success and drive more value from their data,” she explains.

Businesses are looking to embrace the power of technologies such as the cloud, or hybrid cloud, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) to drive business success and will invest heavily on such transformational technologies.

Almost half of respondents admit that data protection is imperative to leverage these investments. Alarmingly, only 37% of businesses are very confident in their current backup solutions, with the majority (73%) admitting that they cannot meet user demands.

This inhibits the adoption of tools and processes that can drive business advantage, but leaders recognise work needs to be done; more than half of those surveyed are looking to deploy Intelligent Data Management and multi-cloud solutions across the business to address this failing.

“In this data-driven age, businesses need to wake up and take action to protect their data. They need to manage their data in a way that always delivers availability and leverage its value to drive performance. This is no longer a luxury, but a business necessity,” she stresses.

There are massive benefits to be gained from the deployment of digital initiatives. However, there is a global disparity in digital adoption. Some of the world’s largest economies are at risk of having to play catch-up when it comes to their investment in digital innovation.

Kruger says there is a significant opportunity and competitive advantage for those who effectively manage their data. “Business leaders need to determine whether their business data will always be available and if they are unsure, it’s time to act. This study shows that many are not acting fast enough.”

Some of the world’s most advanced economies are at risk of being left behind when it comes to their digital adoption. It’s crucial that companies get the right digital foundation in place to intelligently manage their data and safeguard their future. To achieve this, businesses must be united internally, with IT and the business working collaboratively and addressing cultural and skills challenges.

The Report found that companies that are on a journey to become a more intelligent business, meaning they are leveraging technologies such as Cloud Data Management and AI to create a real-time view of the collective business and the ability to act intelligently on that insight.

Amongst the businesses on this journey, the study highlights four common components globally:

Cloud: Cloud Data Management is a key component of delivering Intelligent Data Management. It is evident that leaders are recognising the advantages of a multi-cloud and hybrid-based approach, citing cost, reliability, flexibility and data security of the cloud as their main reasons for choosing it.

About 75% of companies report using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms and many are using the cloud for their backup and recovery services with 51% using Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS) and 44% using disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS).

Capabilities: Companies must enhance their capabilities, to ensure employees can draw on data insights and use new technologies as they are deployed, with 9 out of 10 businesses viewing upskilling employees’ digital skills as vital to their digital success.

Culture: Creating a culture that is adaptable and receptive to new technologies so that people can evolve with the organization is essential, with more than two-thirds of respondents believing that company culture needs to become more open and accepting to digital technologies.

Confidence: Companies must create a sense of confidence in the business’ digital capabilities, built on a strong data foundation. Presently, only a quarter of respondents report total confidence in their capability to meet their digital challenges.

What is clear from the 2019 Veeam Cloud Data Management Report is that the time for action is now. This starts with a strong digital foundation, which ensures that data is backed up and always available.

“With this in place, businesses can confidently deploy new digital initiatives, leveraging the business value and competitive advantage for today and in to the future, and harness the potential of Cloud Data Management,” she concludes.

www.troye.co.za

[Column] Bernard Ford: Managing fixed assets efficiently is an art

Modern cloud-based fixed asset management software helps today’s businesses focus on their core competencies rather than complex IT processes. More importantly, it helps them avoid huge costs related to software, storage and technical staff. This is according to One Channel CEO Bernard Ford.

Cloud offers various advantages such as scalability, flexibility in capacity, enhanced collaboration and cost-efficiency. It also offers a centralised way to integrate the system and its components with web and mobile applications and helps businesses with efficient asset management, maintenance and productivity.

Cloud-based deployment is expected to have a significant growth in the fixed asset management software market, research shows that this market size is expected to grow from US$3-billion in 2019 to US$5.2-billion by 2024.

Fixed asset management software empowers businesses with a centralised platform to efficiently manage their assets throughout its lifecycle. This includes asset lifecycle management, asset budgeting, depreciation management, disposal management, document management, barcoding/Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), asset tracking, audit trail, and tax management.

He says businesses across all industries are adopting fixed asset management software as it enables them to monitor their assets and increase operational efficiency. “Maintenance, repair, and operations of assets are of the utmost importance in any asset-intensive industry.”

Preventive maintenance and IoT technology will boost the adoption of fixed asset management solutions. Also, the growing need to reduce operational cost and proliferate profits through efficient management of assets, are the major factors driving the growth of the fixed asset management software market.

Fixed assets include everything from laptops to printers, furniture, machinery, vehicles and buildings. They need to be managed effectively, regardless of whether it’s a few devices or thousands deployed across multiple locations.

“Traditional fixed asset software typically used spreadsheets whilst modern products enable business owners to use bar code technology to manage off-premise assets including laptops, equipment and machinery. Modern software makes it much easier to track asset location, its usage and even the condition of any asset. Some applications also offer maintenance schedules for these assets,” he explains.

Modern cloud applications like Acumatica allow business owners to track maintenance schedules, location of the asset, current condition and depreciation. It also allows for better asset management, having all asset data stored in a single application eliminates the need for multiple spreadsheets that track multiple assets.

“More accurate reporting is crucial, so instead of using spreadsheets, business owners can now manage their assets right along with their other accounting tasks, saving time by reducing duplicate data entry and eliminates the potential for human error,” he concludes

Bernard Ford is the CEO of One Channel, South Africa. 

[Kenya] VMware, Strathmore University partner to enhance digital skills in Africa

Working with VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa, the Strathmore University has already begun integrating a range of VMware developed courses into its curricula that cover topics such as virtualisation, cloud computing, AI and IoT.

VMware has announced the expansion of the VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa programme in partnership Strathmore University – @iLabAfrica Centre, Kenya.

The overarching goal according to VMware  is to empower the fast-growing, young African population to enter the digital workforce with confidence and expertise, helping to address the skills gap and supporting innovation and entrepreneurship across the continent.

Through the VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa programme, VMware is collaborating with key stakeholders across academia, government and industry to equip African students with the technical skills and certifications required to succeed in the digital economy.

Working with VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa, the Strathmore University has already begun integrating a range of VMware developed courses into its curricula that cover topics such as virtualisation, cloud computing, AI and IoT. This is facilitated through subsidised software licenses and certification vouchers from VMware.

@iLabAfrica, a Centre of Excellence in Research and Innovation in Information Communication Technology at the University, is spearheading the rollout with 20 trainers and over 100 students at the University participating. The students will benefit from access to high-quality learning online resources, hands-on lab experiences to develop technical skills, and the opportunity to achieve industry-recognised VMware certification to complement their chosen fields of study.

“We are delighted to be part of VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa. It provides a wonderful opportunity for our students to gain technical skills and industry-recognised VMware certifications, helping to jumpstart their careers with the best knowledge and skills of international standards. Our shared goal with VMware is to become the VMware IT Academy regional lead for East Africa, training lecturers and students from Strathmore and other universities plus facilitating their participation in the programme. Increased access to this type of education and training for students is a critical part of Africa realising the potential of its youth and a prosperous Africa,” said Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director @iLabAfrica, Strathmore University.

“Skills development is recognised as a key component for economic growth and prosperity. VMware IT Academy: Virtualize Africa helps educational institutions align curricula with the skills needed for the labour market, thereby building the right talent for Africa’s jobs of today and tomorrow. . Our discussions to form a strategic collaboration with Strathmore University is a significant milestone in this program, and will bring new skills and opportunities to its students, and in the future to many more young people in East Africa,” said Thomas MacKay, Senior Director for Global Strategic Programs, VMware.

www.vmware.com

[Column] Harish Chib: Seven best practices for securing the public cloud

The simplicity and cost-effectiveness of the public cloud have led more and more organizations to take advantage of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). You can spin up a new instance in minutes, scale resources up and down whenever you need while only paying for what you use, and avoid high upfront hardware costs. 

While the public cloud solves many traditional IT resourcing challenges, it does introduce new headaches. The rapid growth of cloud usage has resulted in a fractured distribution of data, with workloads spread across disparate instances and, for some organizations, platforms. As a result, keeping track of the data, workloads, and architecture changes in those environments to keep everything secure is often a highly challenging task.

Public cloud providers are responsible for the security of the cloud (the physical datacenters, and the separation of customer environments and data). However, the responsibility for securing the workloads and data placed in the cloud lies firmly with the customer. Just as organisations need to secure the data stored in their on-premises networks, so they need to secure their cloud environment. Misunderstandings around this distribution of ownership is widespread and the resulting security gaps have made cloud-based workloads the new pot of gold for today’s savvy hackers. 

Seven Steps to Securing the Public Cloud

The secret to effective cybersecurity in the cloud is improving your overall security posture: ensuring your architecture is secure and configured correctly, that you have the necessary visibility into your architecture, and importantly, into who is accessing it.

Step 1: Learn your responsibilities

This may sound obvious, but security is handled a little differently in the cloud. Public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform run a shared responsibility model – meaning they ensure the security of the cloud, while you are responsible for anything you place in the cloud.

Step 2: Plan for multi-cloud

Multi-cloud is no longer a nice-to-have strategy.  Rather, it’s become a must have strategy. There are many reasons why you may want to use multiple clouds, such as availability, improved agility, or functionality. When planning your security strategy start with the assumption that you’ll run multi-cloud – if not now, at some point in the future. In this way you can future-proof your approach.

Step 3: See everything

If you can’t see it, you can’t secure it. That’s why one of the biggest requirements to getting your security posture right is getting accurate visibility of all your cloud-based infrastructure, configuration settings, API calls, and user access.

Step 4: Integrate compliance into daily processes

The dynamic nature of the public cloud means that continuous monitoring is the only way to ensure compliance with many regulations. The best way to achieve this is to integrate compliance into daily activities, with real-time snapshots of your network topology and real-time alerts to any changes.

Step 5: Automate your security controls

Cybercriminals increasingly take advantage of automation in their attacks. Stay ahead of the hackers by automating your defenses, including remediation of vulnerabilities and anomaly reporting.

Step 6: Secure ALL your environments (including dev and QA)

You need a solution that can secure your all environments (production, development, and QA) both reactively and proactively

Step 7: Apply your on-premises security learnings

On-premises security is the result of decades of experience and research. Use firewalls and server protection to secure your cloud assets against infection and data loss, and keep your endpoint and email security up to date on your devices to prevent unauthorized access to cloud accounts.

Moving from traditional to cloud-based workloads offers huge opportunities for organizations of all sizes. Yet securing the public cloud is imperative if you are to protect your infrastructure and organization from cyberattacks. By following the seven steps you can maximize the security of your public clouds, while also simplifying management and compliance reporting.

Harish Chib is the Vice President, Middle East & Africa of Sophos.

[Column] Kree Govender: Why cloud hasn’t had a big impact on Business Intelligence

Although the notion of network-based computing stems right back to the 1960s, the modern term “cloud computing” arose in the 2000s. Yet, almost two decades later, South Africa still lags in both its adoption, and its use for critical functions like business intelligence (BI). 

While many believe that this is largely due to a lack of local data centre infrastructure, the landing of the Azure data centres in Africa will drastically change the Cloud landscape across the continent. “This effectively eradicates the fear of shifting massive datasets offshore to global data centres,” confirms Kree Govender, Managing Director of South Africa Qlik Master Reseller (SAQMR). 

The current hesitance towards Cloud adoption in Africa is illustrated by the Qlik implementations across the continent. Statistics show that as much as 95% of Qlik’s customers in Africa are on premise. 

“Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80 percent of enterprises will migrate entirely away from on-premises data centres with the current trend of moving workloads to colocation, hosting and the cloud leading them to shut down their traditional data centre,” adds Govender. “If these predictions prove accurate, the new data centres will mean there’s no longer anything holding Africa back from catching up with the rest of the world.” 

Adam Barrie-Smith, Chief Technology Officer at SAQMR, believes that the Qlik platform is perfectly positioned to capitalise on the benefits that these data centres will offer. “This will complement extensive mobile analysis testing using Qlik’s SaaS and Cloud business, leveraging Qlik Senses’ multi-Cloud capabilities. The first advantage is the data centre, the next will be the containerised cloud environment which is set to follow soon.”  

To Barrie-Smith, one of the greatest benefits of local data centres is enhanced identity management. “Let’s consider the impact on the banking industry, for example. Most African banks still hold on-premise hardware, which is now reaching retirement age. The question now becomes, should they invest in more hardware or virutalise? With the new data centres, our banking customers will find it much simpler and more cost-effective to embrace the Cloud, through a hosted layer within Azure.” 

While making Cloud adoption easier, the new data centres also offer rich integration capabilities, enhanced virtualisation opportunities, a more elastic environment and greater security. “With the local Azure data centres, African organisations will be empowered to embrace hybrid cloud, and we predict a much greater cloud drive,” concludes Govender.  

 Kree Govender is the Managing Director of South Africa Qlik Master Reseller (SAQMR). 

[Column] Andrew Cruise: Two years until Infrastructure as a Service boom hits South Africa

Routed, a leading vendor neutral provider of cloud infrastructure, says that the predicted growth of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is in line with the increasing growth forecasts for cloud computing. Andrew Cruise, managing director, Routed, says that while IaaS is seen as an emerging opportunity in Africa, the work has already started locally with demand increasing as awareness of cloud capabilities increase.

“Since launching three years ago, we have seen a steady increase in both interest and deployment of cloud infrastructure services. As cloud computing grows, so too does the need for cloud-based infrastructure resources,” says Cruise. “Without IaaS there is no Cloud: IaaS is the foundation for all Cloud services. Now that connectivity is fast, cheap and reliable we have reached the tipping point in South Africa where general interest in Cloud has switched into action.”

According to The Xalam Rise of Cloud Report 2019, South Africa is the largest cloud market on the continent. The country accounts for 75% of Africa’s total cloud revenue and Xalam says that this is unsurprising as around 60% of the continent’s enterprise ICT services revenues are generated in South Africa. Routed, which featured in the report as a leading provider of cloud infrastructure resources, says that IaaS is the fastest growing category in the African cloud space, averaging around 120% annually over the three years at 2018.

The report also estimated that around 80% of Africa’s public cloud revenue is generated from SaaS applications. To a large extent this reflects the embryonic nature of this market; SaaS is a cloud starting platform for most businesses according to Xalam.

Guy Zibi, managing director, Xalam Analytics, says IaaS is seen as more of a long-term player, estimating that South Africa is two years away from a true boom: “From a low base – IaaS is the fastest-growing cloud services segment across our cloud value chain.”

Cruise says that one factor influencing the growth and potential of IaaS is what Xalam refers to as the VMWare factor. The availability of VMWare virtualisation solutions is providing African MSPs with a platform to compete with hyperscale providers on IaaS; while they can’t match the capabilities of AWS or Azure, MSPs have increasingly been able to offer local-centric IaaS services, with support and other benefits not offered by global cloud providers.

“For more than a decade, VMware’s solutions have been the go-to virtualisation and management platform for enterprises requiring uptime, security and performance on-premise. Now enterprises can be reassured that the same outcome can be delivered using specialist, certified VMware Cloud Providers, without internalising risk, or investing in facilities, hardware, software and engineering resources,” says Cruise.

Andrew Cruise is the managing director at Routed.