SEACOM adds eight new PoPs across Africa for more African businesses to connect to worldwide cloud facilities

The PoPS will also enable the businesses to connect to the continent’s first Microsoft Azure data centres, in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Pan-African Internet and connectivity service provider SEACOM is adding eight new Points of Presence (PoPs) across Africa to enable more African businesses to connect to cloud facilities worldwide. The PoPS will also enable the businesses to connect to the continent’s first Microsoft Azure data centres, in Johannesburg and Cape Town.  

In Kenya, SEACOM has extended its presence in the brand-new icolo data centre in Mombasa. This full-service facility acts as an on-ramp to SEACOM’s resilient network, providing better support to service provider and enterprise customers in the country. It offers both premium IP/MPLS and transmission services from this new PoP.

SEACOM’s Mombasa PoP is also significant as it connects Kenya’s first truly open-access data centre onto the SEACOM open-access data network. Rare in the region, in comparison to operator-owned data centres, these carrier-neutral facilities encourage competition in the local ICT sphere, helping to increase cloud-based service offerings for customers while driving down costs.  

SEACOM has similar plans for new open-access PoPs that are coming in Nairobi and Kampala. In preparation for higher demand and expanded services to business customers in the region, SEACOM has upgraded its backhaul connecting Mombasa to these new PoPs to include four separate and resilient routes.

In South Africa, SEACOM is deploying a new PoP within the carrier neutral Teraco Bredell data centre. Robert Marston, Global Head of Product at SEACOM, explains, “This new facility is a key location, catering specifically to content providers and enterprise customers. It will also serve as an important data recovery site for many operators.”

Although it already owns Africa’s most extensive international ICT data infrastructure, SEACOM says it is continually investing in strategic upgrades and expanding its PoP footprint within Africa. The company’s recent acquisition of FibreCo has added more than 60 network nodes across its South African network – including six core PoPs in major metros – vastly extending its reach. Internationally, SEACOM is the only African carrier to cover all five of the largest exchange points in Europe (London, Frankfort, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Marseille), in addition to Mumbai.

SEACOM’s PoPs are key to the provider’s direct access offerings, which bypass the public Internet in connecting company networks to digital business solutions. The standard-setting service sees line rates reach from 100 Mbps up to 100 Gigabits per second. By connecting onto a SEACOM PoP that is in closer proximity to their core business sites, customers can experience the SEACOM network’s speed and reliability with more convenience, and generally less cost.

Marston concludes, “The moves that SEACOM is making to improve our infrastructure on the continent will benefit African companies with greater high-speed, reliable and secure connectivity to cloud services and other online tools. One of our major objectives is to add simplicity to cloud migrations wherever possible.”

www.seacom.mu

Vodafone Egypt bets on Nokia’s cloud based Subscriber Data Management solution to bolster operations

 Nokia is deploying a cloud-based Subscriber Data Management (SDM) solution that enables Vodafone Egypt to offer innovative services to its 4G customers.

 The deployment, under the Spring SDM project, helps Egypt’s largest service provider to continue transforming its operations around telco cloud technology.

The adoption of Nokia’s Telco Cloud Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) helps Vodafone Egypt scale its network to meet unprecedented increases in data traffic while simplifying its operational model. The Nokia SDM solution is currently used for other applications, such as Mobile Number Portability (MNP) and Equipment Identity Register (EIR).

Nokia also provides cloud integration and implementation services to enable a smooth transition to the SDM solution.

 The deployment is a significant step in the complete transformation of Vodafone Egypt’s network to continue providing the best-in-class services to its subscribers.

In addition, by deploying Nokia Registers, Vodafone Egypt is able to manage its subscriber data and authentication from a centralized location and across all technologies regardless of whether they are fixed or mobile.

This leads to better network efficiency and faster, smoother introduction of new services. As a result, Vodafone Egypt is able to maintain its leadership position while significantly reducing the time-to-market for the launch of new services.

Osama Said, CTO at Vodafone Egypt, said: “This deployment is a testimony of our strong and enduring relationship with Nokia. Nokia’s proven SDM solution is enabling us to enhance efficiency by consolidating subscriber data across various networks. This is one of the earliest applications over the cloud and is not only helping us by offering a superior experience to our customers but also by simplifying our operational model.”

Sharaf ElDin Mohamed, Head of the Vodafone Egypt Customer Team at Nokia, said: “This is a significant deployment for us and underlines our capabilities in telco cloud and SDM technology. We are excited to help Vodafone Egypt deliver improved customer experience and innovative services, which enables the operator to improve customer loyalty and maintain its leadership position in the industry.”

www.vodafone.com.eg

www.nokia.com

[Column] Christine Ambetsa: Data Security; embracing autonomy and intelligent machines

The National Cybersecurity Centre (NCC) detected over 3.8 million cyber threats between July and September 2018 according to the Communications Authority of Kenya’s first quarter sector statistics report for 2018/19.

CIOs are operating in a state of heightened awareness. Their mission-critical systems are increasingly under threat from constantly evolving viruses and hacks, making it tougher than ever to defend the lifeblood of their business – data.

The National Cybersecurity Centre (NCC) detected over 3.8 million cyber threats between July and September 2018 according to the Communications Authority of Kenya’s first quarter sector statistics report for 2018/19. The cyber threats detected varied from denial-of-service (DOS) including botnet and brute-force attacks that led to denial of computer services and illegal access to computer systems, online impersonation via social media accounts and domain names, malware including phishing attacks and online abuse including online fraud to name a few.

Unsurprisingly, nearly a third of Kenyan CIOs state that their key focus area is advanced security solutions, the second highest priority listed after disaster recovery and business continuity.¹

Security is hard

Simply put, security is hard. Much of it comes down to the way IT has evolved – as an open environment. For years, people and businesses have purchased disparate products, disparate servers, disparate operating systems and disparate databases and then connected them all together. The unintended and unfortunate result is that lots and lots of individual pathways have been opened up in the corporate system.

As a result, what’s sprung up around these corporate systems is a cyberspace battlefield, in which nobody is safe. Even IT professionals are combatants on that battlefield, tasked to make the right security choice every day, because if you don’t, you’re putting the future of the business at risk.

Adding even greater significance to the security mandate today is the advanced and persistent nature of today’s threats. Malicious actors are seemingly always one-step ahead and in order for enterprise security forces to do their job, they must exercise constant vigilance and innovation.

So how can businesses move forward with confidence and continue to build their data assets, while at the same time facing up to the barrage of security threats?

A new kind of defence

The answer is a new kind of defence; one that pits machine against machine so that organisations have a nearly impenetrable barrier to protect their data and their cloud.

Hackers are already wise to the power of letting machines do the work. Right now, for many organisations this battle takes the form of their malicious bots versus your people trying to defend from inside the business. But in this scenario of machine versus man, which do you think is faster? Who do you think will win?

To give your business a fighting chance in protecting its data, you need a defence system that’s completely automated, and even autonomous. With autonomous data management, database threats can be discovered automatically and then repaired. No human beings are involved. Patches are immediately applied while the database is running, which means you don’t need to wait around to find a window of downtime. This is essential for protecting your data on-premise and in the cloud.

Security in the cloud

The current state of cloud defence, in many cases, is just not good enough – not even close. The smartest technology companies are routinely penetrated, as we’ve seen in the unending stream of media stories about businesses having vast quantities of their data stolen. Even the most security-conscious government agencies are also vulnerable.

And because organisations don’t exist in isolation protection is needed both within the company and without. So, the cloud/s they run on also need robust cyber defences using the latest artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies; to find threats and kill them; to search and destroy. Again, the only way to win is to make the battle robots versus robots. It’s the only way to protect the cloud infrastructure without having both hands tied behind your back.

The good news is that the government intends to focus on emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud solutions and data analytics; this pronounced focus will be a key driver for the local ICT market according to the IDC’s Kenya Enterprise ICT Market Outlook for 2018 and 2019.

Time to let machines take the lead

We’re already seeing some companies turning to use systems like the autonomous database for better protection – and without the additional overheads.

Take National Pharmacies, an Australian pharmacy chain, for instance. The company has to be able to move its data at speed for life-saving insights, but needs autonomous capabilities to keep protecting its database without human intervention; as it can’t risk loosening any security or privacy practices at any point.

So, with attacks becoming more frequent, and attackers getting smarter and businesses data more vulnerable, it’s time to let machines take the lead on the cybersecurity battlefield. In doing so, companies will then have at their disposal, the most advanced tools in order to fight – and win – against the most advanced threats.

Christine Ambetsa is the Regional Applications Sales Leader – East Africa at Oracle

Alibaba Cloud expands offerings for EMEA partners

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing and data intelligence arm of Alibaba Group, has announced that an additional nine partners have joined its EMEA Ecosystem Partner Program.

Introduced last year, the program was developed to strengthen the collaboration between Alibaba Cloud’s customers and partners in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Alibaba Cloud has also furthered its commitment in nurturing young talents in cloud computing and big data by partnering with French local universities. 
The announcements were made at Alibaba Cloud Partner Summit, held during the VivaTech show in Paris.

The new partners on board of the program include Cloud Temple, Equinix, EVA Group, Groupe Cyllene, GTI Software & Networking, PROJIXI Europe, SKALE-5, SMILE, and Xebia. By partnering with Alibaba Cloud, together they can facilitate the digital transformation of companies in the EMEA region, especially those in the retail sector by leveraging Alibaba Group’s expertise in e-commerce, logistics and New Retail.

Furthermore, the partners will be able to tap into the company’s business success and market insights in order to expand their presence in China under the “China Gateway” initiative.

“We believe in leveraging our partners’ strengths to create a strong ecosystem for technologies and solution offerings,” said Yeming Wang, General Manager, Alibaba Cloud EMEA. “By offering our state-of-the-art cloud infrastructure and advanced data intelligence services, together with our partners, we hope to accelerate companies’ digital transformation, and help them succeed globally in markets especially in China.”

Existing EMEA partners include companies such as Linkbynet, Ecritel, Micropole, and Intel who joined the program last year.

They were not alone in identifying the benefits of partnering with Alibaba Cloud; Gartner named Alibaba Cloud third globally for IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and IUS (Infrastructure Utility Services), and the first in Asia Pacific in the same space.

With an eye to nurturing future workplace talent, Alibaba Cloud has also teamed up with local universities in France. In addition to partnering with Telecom ParisTech last year to introduce cloud computing and big data training for its students, this year, Alibaba Cloud announced its partnership with SUPINFO International University, institute of information technology and computer sciences created in Paris in 1965 and with over 30 campuses worldwide.

The parties will collaborate closely on matters relating to course design, certification training, IT infrastructure building and cross border connectivity.
“We are pleased to partner with Alibaba Cloud to have our students equipped with useful knowledge on cloud computing technologies, especially in its applications. We believe in empowering students through learning and together with Alibaba Cloud, we can bring the best designed practical courses to them. We want to offer a rich technology test bed for students to experiment different skills in order to prepare them to solve real-life challenges upon graduation,” said Alick MOURIESSE, President of SUPINFO International University.

“Through the collaborations with local universities, Alibaba Cloud can bring our knowledge in cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence to students in France, which is essential to improving their competitive advantages in the workplace,” said Kevin Liu, Country Manager, Alibaba Cloud France & South Europe.

“The partnership with SUPINFO following the tie up with Telecom ParisTech further demonstrated our commitment to France and our contributions to talent development.”
In addition to its presence at VivaTech in France, Alibaba Cloud will also host its Partner Summit in UK and Germany, with the aim of attracting more participants to its EMEA Ecosystem Partner Program.

www.alibabacloud.com

Teraco’s Africa Cloud Exchange offers a direct connection to multiple leading global cloud services in Africa

Cloud investment into Africa has increased sharply as the continent sees the establishment of its first cloud regions. Through extensive investment by multiple international operators, cloud strategies are now becoming a key element within every enterprise’s infrastructure investment. Teraco, Africa’s largest and most interconnected vendor-neutral data centre, says its African cloud exchange, located in the Johannesburg and Cape Town data centre facilities, will ensure a low risk, direct entry point for clients wishing to connect to local and global cloud providers. This ‘on-ramp’ is a vital, secure connection service housed within data centres such as Teraco and provides direct connectivity to a host of cloud providers.

Since launching, Teraco’s Africa Cloud Exchange, services the sub Saharan Africa region and has become instrumental in keeping local traffic within the borders of Africa, as opposed to routing it via Europe and back again. Currently AWS Direct Connect, Microsoft Express Route and Google’s Cloud Platform are all available via the cloud exchange.

Andrew Owens, peering and interconnection specialist, Teraco, says the Africa Cloud Exchange is the neutral connectivity point where any enterprise, ISP, carrier or managed service provider can connect in Africa: “This investment into Africa will significantly impact the burgeoning cloud region. Aside from benefiting from the myriad of cloud connectivity options, there is also no limitation on capacity. Teraco purely charges a cross-connection fee and as a result, reduces the costs to connect.”

He says that access to multiple connectivity providers and business partners is an inevitable requirement of any modern enterprise: “Most enterprises want to avoid the public Internet due to potential latency and throughput issues. These challenges are addressed by private connect solutions. Through our cloud exchange we ensure a low risk, secure, direct, predictable connection to any client-selected cloud provider.”

By utilising cross-connections, Teraco’s Africa Cloud Exchange is a highly scalable, quick and cost-effective way to create a hybrid or multi-cloud IT environment: “It creates an ideal opportunity to move business critical workloads and latency-sensitive applications to the public cloud. Through this approach, less network hops, higher carrier diversity and interconnectivity are automatically a part of a resilient and scalable network,” says Owens.

In addition, Owens says that cloud operators can take advantage of direct access to African terrestrial fibre, satellite connectivity, submarine cables and an open market for interconnection.

Using the Africa Cloud Exchange, Owens says Teraco recently ran real world latency tests from the Teraco cross-connection directly to resources deployed in Western Europe and resources deployed in South Africa via Microsoft Express Route. As shown in the diagram below, the RTT (Round Trip Time) to resources deployed in the cloud from Teraco’s Africa Cloud Exchange has improved from an average of 171ms down to less than 2ms.

“Lower latency, and direct cloud connections are imperative for a cloud approach to thrive. Being able to assist clients within the enterprise to better serve their clients, providing not only interconnects, but also lower latency,” says Owens.

Liquid Telecom launches Azure Stack, Microsoft’s cloud service in East Africa

The new Azure Stack service will allow companies to run a private Microsoft cloud within East Africa, rather than at one of Microsoft’s 54 public data centres located outside the region

Liquid Telecom Kenya has today launched a Microsoft Cloud service in East Africa that offers a step-change in cybersecurity for the region’s most sensitive databases.

The new Azure Stack service will allow companies to run a private Microsoft cloud within East Africa, rather than at one of Microsoft’s 54 public data centres located outside the region. This means users benefit from the cutting-edge security protocols developed and run by Microsoft on its cloud platforms, while holding their data locally, which makes data uploading faster for databases that can be as large as one terabyte or more.

The service will be available from today across East Africa, hosted in private cloud nodes in Kenya and Tanzania, which makes it possible to replicate databases at different locations to increase reliability and flexibility.

 “The data transmission time to Europe is around 200 milliseconds, and for the closest Microsoft cloud server, in South Africa, 55 milliseconds. But the new Azure Stacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam will mean data transfer speeds of less than 20 milliseconds for all users within East Africa,” said Winston Ritson, Group Head of Cloud Services for the Liquid Telecom Group.

This increase in speeds will transform back-ups and uploads from previously lengthy processes to swift data exchanges. Globally, companies have reported that this has transformed their operations, with one logistics company in California achieving a 50% improvement in service delivery on increased data speeds.

Using Azure Stack also opens the way to a level of cybersecurity that few organisations have the capacity to develop.

“Microsoft spends some $1bn a year on ensuring the security of its Azure platforms. This is a scale of spend and professional attention that companies cannot match or surpass in securing their data,” said Winston.

This comes as East Africa’s data security continues to deteriorate. In 2017, Kenya lost over Sh21bn to cybercrime. But the nation’s losses are forecast to rise further on new cyber threats, including attacks on built-in Windows IT admin tools, Powershell files and Windows Scripting executables.

 “Developing the Azure Stack in East Africa has required intensive development and co-operation between Liquid Telecom and Microsoft,” said Adil El Youssefi, CEO East Africa, Liquid Telecom. “However, we believe that in offering a now unequalled level of cybersecurity, it has delivered yet another vital pillar to the economic development of Kenya and East Africa.”

www.liquidtelecom.com

[Column] Anton Jacobsz: The always-on economy gives cloud data management trends a seat at the boardroom table

With regards to both data centre and cloud offerings, data management provides an important tool to facilitate an infrastructure that needs to operate in a round-the-clock application availability

The digital transformation of today’s enterprises requires being able to operate in an ‘always on’ economy; offering instant service delivery for today’s modern consumers with their expectations of immediate fulfilment.

With regards to both data centre and cloud offerings, data management provides an important tool to facilitate an infrastructure that needs to operate in a round-the-clock application availability. At the same time, data must be protected, and compliant with legislation that globally is becoming increasingly stringent and aware of the consumer’s needs.

Anton Jacobsz, CEO at Networks Unlimited Africa, says, “Companies need to be able to streamline and automate their processes in order for data management systems to operate at maximum capacity and meet business goals. This means reducing IT management while still improving workload delivery. With this thinking as a central concept, we have seen the development of some interesting trends recently, with enormous significance at the top echelons of the business’ thinking. Cloud data management trends today are under the spotlight from a business imperative and not simply as only a technology function.”

Important trends going forward include artificial intelligence (AI) powered data management, accelerated cloud adoption and GDPR compliance.

AI-powered data management: According to multinational professional services firm Ernst & Young, disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI)will unsettle not just corporate business models, but also society as a whole. But while these challenges are certainly palpable, how a company responds to disruption will ultimately determine its success.

According to Gartner, data and analytics leaders must examine the potential business impact of trends such as augmented analytics, continuous intelligence and explainable AI, and adjust business models and operations accordingly – or risk losing competitive advantage to those who do.

Jacobsz says, “Gartner has also noted previously that AI will be a major digital driver for reinventing business models and the customer experience in years to come, projected until at least 2025. These projections include a focus on event-driven IT, a machine-learning (ML) model that involves constantly sensing and responding to business events (which range from completed transactions to threat detection). The focus is on seeking solutions that can centralise data management across all environments.”

Accelerated cloud adoption: A study by Spiceworks, a professional network for the IT industry, found that organisations are looking at cloud adoption for a number of reasons, including data accessibility, disaster recovery and improved flexibility.

GDPR compliance: Jacobsz notes, “The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in the European Union (EU) were definitely a top focus around the business world during 2018 and this continues as we move forward. This legal framework, which came into effect on 25 May 2018, sets guidelines for the collection and processing of identifiable personal information of individuals within the EU, while also imposing fines where necessary. These fines can be revenue-based, of up to four per cent of their annual global revenue.

The GDPR is a critical regulation for banks, insurers and other financial companies, as well as IT companies that could be involved in the processing of the data of EU citizens for these businesses. Companies around the world have been forced to look at – and where necessary restructure – their data management strategy to comply with the GDPR. This includes looking for solutions that support compliance with automation, searching and customisable reporting, as well as security solutions.”

Jacobsz concludes, “The benefits of cloud data management include the consolidation of processes such as backup, disaster recovery, archiving and analytics, as well as security solutions. This all speaks to cost savings and compliance, showing why data management is increasingly being recognised as a strategic business imperative at the boardroom table.”

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

Kenyan banks embrace infobip solutions to grow customer base, manage competition

Infobip, a global cloud communications company for businesses and leader in omnichannel engagement is enhancing its presence in Kenya by partnering with banks and businesses.

Housing Finance Group, an integrated property and financial solutions provider in Kenya believes tailored dialogue is key in building long term relationships with their customers.

”It is imperative to listen to your customers and interact with them on digital channels. Our recently launched mobile app, for example, increased our customer base by 150 percent in only seven weeks, but USSD service is still very much in demand in Kenya. With the support of Infobip, we implemented our USSD solution in less than two months, and we can already attest to great results customer-wise,” said George Njuguna, Chief Information Officer, H.F. Group. 

Infobip has partnered with several financial and telecommunications companies across the region, bringing financial solutions to the unbanked and helping banks and fintech enterprises meet the growing competition from the expanding FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) communications sector.

A major shift in mobile money and financial services trends are evolving across Africa. Other companies using Infobip’s A2P communication technology in Africa include the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), the largest privately-owned bank in East Africa.

“We are constantly trying to find new, innovative ways to optimize our processes and interactions with our customers to increase satisfaction with our bank. CBA is utilizing Infobip’s platform for A2P SMS communication, but our goal is also to expand our cooperation with additional channels such as email, chat apps and push notifications for example,” Dennis Volemi, Head of IT at CBA.

Kenya tops the list of African countries with ease of access to financial services thanks in part to its high uptake of mobile money, placing the country ahead of economic giants such as South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana. Other key drivers of this development include mobile adoption and internet connectivity. 84 percent of Kenya’s population has access to the Internet.  91 percent of Kenya’s total population has a mobile phone, compared to the average of 80 percent mobile penetration in all of Africa.[1]

”Infobip is expanding its operations in Africa. It is a region that is changing and improving rapidly when it comes to mobile money and financial services. Kenya, being one of the more progressive and developed nations in Africa, presents great potential and sets an example in truly diminishing the unbanked. With Infobip’s messaging solutions, banks can effectively build customer engagement, trust, and loyalty that is so important in Africa’s evolving banking industry,” said Rachel Njiru, Infobip’s MD Kenya & Director OP Africa.

By using Infobip’s omnichannel solution, Kenyan businesses can choose the optimal communication channels for specific types of messages, all available on a single communication platform.

Businesses can design targeted promotional campaigns and provide transactional traffic by including, for example, notification codes, account balance changes, bonus calculations on member cards, and payment reminders. The channels include SMS, and a number of chat app channels such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook Messenger, RCS, Push and more.

“Banks have to meet the customer needs of its competition. Maintaining customers long-term will require impactful engagement through omnichannel communications over the channels they use and prefer.  Infobip is a provider that can truly address these pain points, helping banks throughout Africa improve their financial service offerings and ultimately enable every Kenyan with a bank account to be powered by mobile technology,” said Ali Hussein Kassim, co-founder, and CEO of FinteXX.

Infobip’s enablement of WhatsApp Business API allows enterprises in over 180 countries to communicate branded and rich content, such as high-res images, video, and files to its customers over WhatsApp, the chat app trusted and used by 1.6 billion people worldwide.

A financial institution can for example offer banking services such as personal account verification information, account statements, banking transaction alerts or help customers find the closest branch.

www.infobip.com

[Column] Robin Brown: Ten cloud myths busted

Cloud ERP has come of age, but the uptake is still very slow. Why are enterprises reluctant to make the switch from on-premise to the cloud?

There are many misconceptions about cloud-based ERP that may be holding you back. Let’s bust those myths and sort out fact from fiction.

Myth 1: Cloud ERP is difficult to manage

Like so many myths, the opposite in, in fact, true.

With cloud ERP, all back-end management is handled by the SaaS/PaaS provider.

The off-site technical team handles everything your in-house IT team would have done: hardware, database management, security, back-up/restoration, high availability and disaster recovery.

This leaves the IT department free to concentrate on running the business infrastructure.

Myth 2: SAP is not user-friendly

In recent years, SAP has focused on the front end, and the new generation of cloud ERP products, like Business ByDesign, is UX-friendly and sports user interfaces that are modern and intuitive, made-for-mobile and ergonomic.

SAP’s commitment to improving the user experience is evidenced by the recent acquisition of Qualtrics, a global leader in experience management (XM) software.

Simplicity with power is the key design philosophy: these systems are made to serve humans, not the other way round.

Myth 3: Cloud ERP is expensive

Multi-tenant cloud-based ERP is significantly more cost-effective than on-premise deployment because a number of customers share the hardware and software installation and maintenance/upgrade costs. With SaaS, a subscription model avoids significant upfront capital investment in the form of hardware and software acquisition costs.

Even single-tenant cloud-based ERP systems are more cost-effective than on-premise deployments because the SaaS provider is able to leverage economies of scale by having large data centers servicing multiple businesses.

Myth 4: The cloud is not secure

‘In the cloud’ means living on the internet, right?

Well, not quite. The internet is used to deliver the information, but the software and data live in highly-secured data centers that have 24/7/365 protection, provided by expert security teams, with strict policies, regular audits and penetration testing for regulatory compliance.

Most data breaches come form inside the organisation, so a proper cloud-based system is, in fact, more secure. SAP’s data centers comply with strict EU GDPR requirements.

Myth 5: Moving from on-premise to the cloud is complex

Implementing a new automation system can be daunting, and yes, it’s complex. There is so much to consider, not least of which is the possibility of business disruption. That’s why it’s important to choose the right software and a service partner with the experience to understand your business and how best to deliver value from the ERP software. At Siris, our heavyweight team sweats the details before plunging into the task of migrating. Numerous mock data loads are performed in a non-production environment, and used as the basis for testing and training. Only once the client is comfortable, will the live data migration and cut-over take place in the production environment.

Myth 6: Cloud automation will replace jobs

Yes and no – but mostly no. Automation and digitisation are changing the world, and so many mundane jobs are already being done by robots or automated systems. As AI advances, the ability for automated systems to do more of the complex, yet repetitive tasks, increases. Automation allows people to be more efficient and to do more meaningful and interesting work.

Myth 7: There is a risk of downtime

If your server goes down, whether it’s due to malware, power problems or mechanical failure, it could bring your business to a halt. SAP has 45 data centers in 25 locations around the world, with more being built all the time.

These data centers have iron-clad security, redundant power sources, redundant cooling and high-end fire protection systems. In addition, each data center is backed up to a remote location, in case of a major catastrophe (such as an earthquake or act of war).

Myth 8: Software updates may disrupt operations

At SAP, every effort is made to test software updates before they are rolled out, and clients are given advance notification of scheduled updates with details of planned changes. Updates tend to be over weekends so the risk of operational disruption is minimised.

Single-tenant customers also have flexibility to schedule their “upgrade weekend” within a certain timeframe. It’s important to note that true cloud ERP (SaaS) is designed for seamless, regular upgrades. This is achieved by keeping the core solution “vanilla” and performing complex customisation on a separate application development platform (PaaS).

Myth 9: Customisation is limited

Because every business is unique, cloud ERP products like SAP Business ByDesign cater for extensive customisation.

Simpler customisation, such as customer-specific forms and fields, can be performed directly with the ERP system, while more complex customisation can be done with SAP Cloud Platform, which integrates with the cloud ERP system.

With regular updates, cloud ERP solutions are improving all the time, and what used to be considered customisation has in many cases become part of standard configuration.

Myth 10: Limited product suites

SAP Business ByDesign has earned the moniker “suite in a box” because it can provide most of the applications that a business might need, including SCM (logistics), CRM, procurement, project management, finance and HR.

Sectors that successfully employ this robust ERP system include manufacturing, professional services, wholesale and distribution, retail, construction and engineering.

The advantage of a “suite in a box” cloud ERP over a collection of disparate line of business applications is the fact that integration and data quality across core modules is guaranteed by the software vendor.

Moving ERP to the cloud enables fast, anytime, anywhere (mobile) access. It’s cost-effective, easy to maintain, flexible in terms of adding or removing business processes, and agile to scale as the company grows and changes.

Cloud computing and automation are transforming the business world as we know it. Those businesses that fail to move with the times will be left behind, as their competitors improve efficiencies, enable better customer centricity, and become more adaptable to shifting customer needs.

Cloud ERP is a certain competitive advantage for companies who want to become future-fit.

Robin Brown is the Director Siris Cloud Solutions South Africa

[Column] Hassen Hamza: How communications service providers can maximise revenue with cloud

While cloud adoption among communications service providers (CSPs) in Africa is still at an early stage – with many regional operators only now beginning to implement concrete projects – Hassen Hamza, Pre-Sales & Business Development Manager, Middle East & Africa, Nexign, says that making the shift will be key to ensuring that these organisations can easily and effectively roll out new products, services and technologies.

“These are mostly in the form of trials and proof of concepts for moving specific information technology or telecommunications applications to the cloud,” says Hamza, adding however that “early adopters will gain the advantage of being ready for the introduction of new technologies, such as 5G, and the ability to react rapidly to changing market conditions by introducing new products and services as quickly as possible.”

Currently, almost all regional operators are running legacy telco and IT solutions, including circuit switching, packet core, business support systems, operations support systems, and cloud adoption requires that they upgrade these. As such, cloud adoption requires investment not only in data centres and cloud infrastructure, but also in upgrading telco and IT application software.

“Stagnating CSP revenues in the region, coupled with concerns around financial impact, robustness and security have meant that cloud adoption in Africa remains constrained and limited to a few select countries and network operators,” explains Hamza. “This is where cloud can make the difference – even though it requires an initial investment, it will help telcos reduce operational expenditure and free up capital expenditure for new investments.”

According to John Abraham, Principal Analyst at Analysys Mason, CSPs that embark on the digital transformation journey are focused on both business and financial outcomes. From a technology perspective, this is driving CPSs to demand systems that are cloud-native compliant.

There are a couple of ways CSPs can make the best of public cloud. Increasing revenues or decreasing costs that includes using Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) architecture that enables telcos to virtualise some of the network elements. This allows telcos to optimise cloud computing resources, and introduce new services faster. CSPs looking to transform need to make use of the right solutions that are cloud-native, and fully support NFV and 5G architectures.

Hamza adds that CSPs can also divert some IT products and applications into the cloud. This enables telcos to decrease capital and operational expenditure by reducing data center power, private computing resources and required maintenance. Ensuring these applications are cloud native further enhances the benefits.

“Additionally, utilising Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications is especially useful to telcos as some offerings become commoditised. While not suited to all areas of operation within the organisation, there are a growing number of use cases where using the SaaS model can help CSPs reduce expenditure.”

Cloud compliance and security

The concept of hybrid cloud has also come to the fore in recent years, especially as more countries put in place regulations that govern where certain types of data can be stored and how it should be protected.

Hamza points out that even as the cloud becomes more secure, the endless race between cloud service providers, hackers and cybercriminals continues. Here, CSPs can either decide on encrypting their data in the cloud, or to go for a hybrid approach where data is kept in the private cloud while the processing engines, applications and products that utilise all this data resides in the public cloud.

Apart from compliance and security, telcos can use the public cloud to cater for peaks in demand for computing power, and then scale back as the need subsides. Deployment models such as multi-cloud are also gaining in popularity.

Cloud is the future

According to the World Wide Worx Cloud Africa 2018 report, cloud computing is increasing in the economic hubs of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, with 74% of the South African companies surveyed increasing their cloud expenditure during 2017 and 80% of South African companies in 2018.

The bottom line is that cloud for CSPs is now capable of supporting increasing numbers of legacy technologies, and helping them quickly develop and deploy new products or services, while helping reduce costs. For most, it is only a matter of conducting a cost vs. benefits analysis, which many are busy with in order to decide their future path.

“Cloud is the future, and it is here to stay. It will become a commodity as more CSPs adopt it, further fuelling uptake, and those that don’t make the change quick enough will not be able to adopt new technologies or pursue new business opportunities, and end up losing market share,” concludes Hamza.

Hassen Hamza, Pre-Sales & Business Development Manager, Middle East & Africa, Nexign .