[Column] Anthony Njoroge: The importance of flash storage for the cloud

As cynicism about the benefits of the cloud give way to rapidly embracing digital transformation, companies are finding themselves in a position where they must optimise their infrastructure.

While the modern cloud environment delivers improved performance and more responsive use of resources, it must be configured properly with the relevant hardware in place. This is where flash storage becomes an enabler to help unlock the business benefits arising from effective digital transformation.

There is no arguing about the speed advantage flash provides over more traditional storage options. But perhaps, more importantly, it results in improved productivity and responsiveness within the organisation. Because of the higher input/output operations per second of flash, it can deliver faster response times for those IT services that support the business. It makes it possible for insights to be extracted in real-time from the data warehouse further aiding the decision-making process.

The resultant enhancements in efficiencies that come from flash storage means companies will use fewer CPU cores and cloud cycles. Given how most cloud providers work on a pay-per-use model, there will be a significant cost savings that can be reinvested in other parts of the business.

According to the rule of thumb, flash storage can deliver approximately 10 times the performance of traditional storage arrays with just one tenth of the power consumption. It is therefore not difficult to understand why companies are increasingly adopting flash in their cloud architecture.

Storage flexibility

IT departments have also been exploring using NVMe to reduce response time and storage latency. For its part, NetApp was the first enterprise storage vendor to deliver NVMe/FC on all midrange and high-end all-flash A-series storage. This innovation allows customers using a 32Gb fibre channel to immediately see latencies drop to under half a millisecond.

All-flash arrays also enable storage tiering capabilities. After all, one of the ways to reduce cloud costs is to tier infrequently used data to less-expensive storage formats. However, the public cloud providers only offer data tiering between classes of their object storage offerings. This means that as storage requirements become more dynamic, companies require options in matching the fastest storage with the most critical applications.

By moving this less critical data to more affordable alternatives using a cloud-agnostic solution, such as the NetApp AFF, companies can tier data more strategically to meet both cost and access requirements.

Modernisation

Combining flash performance and application integration, while leveraging the power of the hybrid cloud, organisations can extend the capabilities of their data centres. These combine to make up part of the data fabric that help users unless the full potential of the data at their disposal.

Consider how consistent and integrated data management services and applications facilitate data visibility and insights, data access and control, and data protection and security. Together, these technologies will accelerate digital transformation and allow the business to address its highest imperatives.

All-flash storage has become a vital component in the cloud migration journey. It is something that companies must consider if they are to be effective in their digital transitions and leverage the agility that come from the high performance computing capabilities delivered through the cloud.

Anthony Njoroge is the Product Manager for NetApp at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa

Elaraby leverages cloud to deliver efficiency across businesses in Egypt, Africa and Middle East

Riverbed has announced that Elaraby Group, an Egyptian manufacturer and retailer of home electronics, has maximized the value of its Microsoft Office 365 investment by deploying Riverbed® SaaS Accelerator.

 In an effort to enhance user experience and employee collaboration as it advances its cloud-first strategy throughout its vast geographic operations, Elaraby has enabled a faster, more responsive Office 365 experience for its employees by reducing network latency and empowered its teams to be more productive and better equipped to serve customers by deploying Riverbed SaaS Accelerator.

Elaraby has also invested in Riverbed® Cloud Accelerator to speed migration and access to workloads on Microsoft Azure. As a long-standing customer of Riverbed® SteelHead™, the market-leading WAN optimization solution worldwide, Elaraby is now accelerating applications from on-prem to cloud to the client and end-user.

Elaraby is a player in developing and manufacturing consumer electronics and home appliances in Egypt, the Middle East and Africa and the company’s products are widely accepted in more than 60 countries.

The Elaraby business has more than 40,000 employees, 16 commercial and industrial enterprises, over 3,000 sales partners, 17 trade stores across Egypt and approximately 600 after-sales service centers.

Elaraby is leveraging the cloud to deliver the efficiency, agility, and scalability its business demands. To ensure all locations and all employees are seamlessly connected, the company has migrated to Office 365. “Our use of the cloud is significantly growing,” said Medhat ElAraby, Vice President of Elaraby Group. “We have already migrated one of our data centers to Azure, and we are leveraging both PaaS and SaaS.”

While the company had successfully implemented Office 365, issues with network latency, congestion, and last-mile delays were restricting Elaraby ‘s ability to realize the full potential of its investment. As latency could potentially impact many aspects of the business – from direct sales and production, to store management and marketing – Elaraby turned to Riverbed to reduce data transfer costs and optimize speed across the enterprise, compressing data before sending it between sites.

With the support and expertise of Riverbed’s local partner, Global Brands Group, a leading provider of Consulting, Technology and Outsourcing services, the IT team recently extended its Riverbed SteelHead solution with the addition of six new appliances and one software instance in Azure.

 In addition, the company has deployed 3,500 licenses of Riverbed SaaS Accelerator, which accelerates popular SaaS apps up to 10x, as well as Riverbed Cloud Accelerator. In total, 6,000 users at Elaraby now have access to Office 365 and the improved performance across email, Dynamics 365 for Customer Service and Field Service, and SAP, and it has had a direct and very positive impact on retail and production.

“We could immediately see with Riverbed how we could address network latency,” explained Medhat ElAraby. “Since the deployment, Elaraby has reduced data transmission between sites by 60% with, on average, 900GB less data per day. We are now far more efficient in the way data is consumed which is delivering significant cost savings and improving connectivity and collaboration between sites and teams. Riverbed has also helped us improve our data management. The encryption of data is very important to us because all the data transferred in our organization has value, whether it’s sales figures, product designs, or customer insights. Securing our data has helped us maintain our competitive advantage.”

“With its workforce spread across such a vast geography, and its focus on having a cloud-first IT strategy, Elaraby has benefited greatly from the joint value proposition of the Microsoft Office 365 suite and the Riverbed acceleration solutions,” said Mirna Arif, Country General Manager, Microsoft Egypt. “Microsoft and Riverbed have a long-standing partnership globally, and at a regional level this has meant a strong collaboration between our local sales and technical teams. This has ultimately translated to a robust solution that enables Elaraby to offer its employees a consistent and impressive user experience across their collaboration and productivity applications.”

“Cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools such as those in the Office 365 suite are becoming increasingly fundamental to the modern business. The effectiveness of these solutions and their adoption by the workforce ultimately depends on end-user experience which can be easily impacted by poor performance,” said Mena Migally, Regional Vice President, META at Riverbed. “Elaraby ‘s success with Riverbed underpins the value that our solutions bring to the new breed of cloud-first organizations who are looking to enjoy the flexibility and scalability that cloud offers, while ensuring performance remains unaffected by the network latency, irrespective of where applications are hosted and how they are accessed. Elaraby is an innovative enterprise that continuously adopts and implements the latest technologies to accelerate and maintain their leadership regionally. As one of our first customers in Egypt, with a strong decade-long relationship, we are proud to continue to partner and support them on their digital journey.”

www.elarabygroup.com

Fieldcloud SAS joins the Smart Africa Alliance

French-based technology firm, Fieldcloud has joined the Smart Africa Alliance

Smart Africa is an alliance of 31 African countries, international organisations and global private sector players tasked with Africa’s digital agenda. The alliance is empowered by a bold and innovative commitment by African Heads of State to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development on the continent and usher Africa into the knowledge economy through affordable access to broadband and use of ICTs.

“An essential part of how we work is that we seek to put the private sector first. We believe that our partnerships with companies like Fieldcloud are essential in ensuring that we deliver cutting edge technologies in Africa and move toward creating a single digital market. ”, said Mr Lacina Koné, Smart Africa’s Director General / CEO.

Founded in 2009, Fieldcloud is an edge computing, network connectivity and Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure solutions specialist systems integrator focused on energy, resources and telecom market sectors. Fieldcloud SAS works with enterprises to deal with the challenges of moving data between the field, legacy devices, factory floor and the cloud.

Today, fieldcloud’s activities are in IoT hardware design, systems integration, legacy systems digitization, embedded software applications, connectivity solutions, strategic business advisory and consulting. Fieldcloud continues to develop competencies in cutting edge technologies in global satellite IoT communications, IoT systems integration and LPWAN solutions to support projects in energy, telecommunications and resources sectors.

“Multistakeholder collaboration is essential to enable Africa’s single digital market, sustainably. The Smart Africa Alliance fosters a powerful and growing ecosystem of public and private members and fieldcloud is delighted to be of service as we partner together to build capacity, connect people and digitize industry.”, said Mr Matthew D. Smith, CEO fieldcloud SAS.  

With a vision to create a single digital market in Africa by 2030, the Smart Africa Alliance brings together Heads of State who seek to accelerate the digitalization of the continent and create a common market. Launched in 2013 by seven (7) African Heads of State, the Alliance now has 30 member countries, representing over 750 million people and over 40 Private Sector members committed to the vision and the advancement of Africa.

Other private sector members of the Smart Africa Alliance include Facebook, Intel, Orange, Ericsson, Econet, Microsoft, Inmarsat and Huawei among others.

www.fieldcloud.com

www.smartafrica.org

Box appoints former Google Cloud Executive Sebastien Marotte as President of Box EMEA

Box, Inc., the Content Cloud, has announced that Sebastien Marotte will be joining the Box Executive team as President of Box Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), effective June 7, 2021.

The appointment underscores Box’s continued commitment to the region where the Company recently announced a new office opening in Warsaw, Poland, and its recent acquisition of SignRequest, a European electronic signature company.

“Sebastien is joining at an exciting time for Box, as we’re continuing to grow our international presence and amplify the power of the Content Cloud,” said Stephanie Carullo, COO of Box. “Sebastien has comprehensive knowledge of the EMEA business landscape, and extensive experience leading in multiple markets. We’re thrilled to welcome him to lead our EMEA operations.”

Over a 30+ year career, Sebastien has held executive roles at some of the world’s highest-profile software companies including Google, Hyperion, and Oracle. He most recently led Google Cloud’s EMEA Channels as Vice President, having previously served as Vice President of Google Cloud EMEA for eight years. As an early leader at Google Cloud, Sebastien was responsible for much of the foundational growth and development across EMEA, including the launch of G Suite (now Google Workspace).

“The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change for just about every company on the planet, and the move to the cloud has never been more urgent,” said Sebastien Marotte, incoming President of Box EMEA. “As more companies realize that their businesses run on content, the demand for a secure platform for managing all of that content in the cloud will continue to grow. I strongly believe that Box has the strategy and team in place to capture this amazing opportunity, and I’m incredibly excited to join at this important part of the journey.”

Sebastien holds a Master’s degree in Finance and Business from ESLSCA Business School Paris. He also serves as a board member at Temporall.

www.box.com

Bahwan CyberTek and Lightbend partner to accelerate cloud native modernization in Middle East and North Africa

Bahwan CyberTek (BCT), a worldwide provider of digital transformation solutions,has announced the expansion of its global partnership with Lightbend, the creator of Akka Platform and leader in cloud native architecture.

Akka Platform simplifies the delivery of complex distributed systems with a full suite of Reactive microservices frameworks and runtimes for building real-time, cloud native applications.

BCT will become a system integrator partner of Lightbend in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where BCT has deep expertise with large enterprise customers across Oil and Gas, Telecom, Power, Banking, Retail and Logistics. BCT will lead digital transformation initiatives based on Akka Platform in key use cases across Predictive Analytics, Digital Experience and Digital Supply Chain Management.

As the MENA region focuses on modernizing applications for the cloud, Akka Platform will give BCT customers major advantages building cloud-native microservices designed to be responsive, scalable and distributed.

Akka Platform is powered by an open source core and brings developers important capabilities across Reactive programming, data streaming and microservices. Lightbend’s customers include major brands like Credit Karma, Hootsuite, iHeartRadio, LinkedIn, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Starbucks, UniCredit Group, Verizon, Walmart, Weight Watchers, William Hill and many more.

“Our partnership with Lightbend comes at a time when many digital transformation initiatives across the region have been driven to high levels of maturity,” said Mr. S. Vishwanathan, Executive Vice President at BCT. “Akka Platform is a great addition and complements our range of specialized IP and services offerings. More importantly, BCT is now better positioned to speed up digital transformation projects and facilitate faster go-lives with our outcome-based business models.”

“The MENA region represents a $160 billion information technology market[1], and Lightbend is excited to partner with its leading reseller servicing the Oil and Gas, Telecom, Power, Banking, and Retail and Logistics industries,” said Jeff Vance, EVP Global Field Operations at Lightbend. “Lightbend and BCT give MENA enterprises the most powerful technology platform and expertise for transformation toward real-time, cloud native application architecture.”

www.bahwancybertek.com

www.lightbend.com

[South Africa] Tech company immedia invests R10 million to digitize community radio across Africa

Durban-based tech company, immedia has invested R10-million to help African media entrepreneurs to build sustainable community radio by using Fabrik, a set of cloud-enabled digital tools that empower media entities to live-stream shows, grow and engage with audiences around the world, and benefit financially by monetising their audiences.

The 25-year-old company, which has the backing of Microsoft and the Industrial Development Corporation, has been developing their Fabrik technology since 2017. Fabrik allows media entrepreneurs to upend the traditional notion of “we broadcast and you receive”, by creating a feedback loop that directly helps the stations and listeners that use it to leapfrog old technology, to become citizen journalists, and find their strategic space in a digitally transformed world. It is already being used by 15 commercial clients, including radio stations Gagasi FM, Smile 90.4FM and YFM.

As part of its Digital Leap programme, immedia will be giving its platform to qualifying media entrepreneurs across Africa for free for a year. This includes consultation, training and support to help monetize the technology, cumulatively valued at R10 million.

Phil Molefe, a veteran of broadcast radio in South Africa, Fabrik’s Head of Business Development & Strategy, says the programme was key to the company’s vision to spearhead media transformation. He says the uptake of Fabrik by energetic entrepreneurs at community radio stations showed how empowering the suite of digital tools is. “It enables them to deepen their relationship with their audience and monetise it sustainably because the quality of their engagement with listeners is meaningful.”

Molefe points out that while community media is often under-resourced and struggles to retain skills, the company’s case studies have shown that it is more than possible for them to thrive – and that the Digital Leap programme is the kind of opportunity they need, and can succeed on. Fabrik helps media entrepreneurs by solving key challenges for them, including:

Providing them with a mobile application that allows community and campus radio stations to live-stream shows, as well host podcasts, allowing them to reach audiences well beyond the geographic constraints of their traditional radio broadcast signal.

By shifting to a cloud-based tool, radio stations get access to archival and backup that is compliant with BCCSA and ICASA regulations. This helps them to significantly cut down on time and resources required to manually back up radio content to on-site servers or even tape.

Messaging functionality, including push notifications, so that stations can better engage with their communities, publish written or multimedia content, and even promote active conversation between listeners. Push notifications help drive engagement by bringing attention to active competitions, surveys and polls, recently published content, and more.

By encouraging listeners to register as a member and provide some of their personal information, such as geographics and demographics, stations are able to build audience profiles for their listeners, and gain a better understanding of their needs and preferences.

These detailed analytics provided by Fabrik gives stations the data they need to convince advertisers and marketers of the value of promoting their products and services through the station’s app, helping bring in much needed revenue.

Fabrik has a range of users, and about 60% of their listeners have an opt-in relationship with their broadcasters. By building and growing owned communities, stations then stand to benefit financially by serving highly relevant ads to their digital listeners. In addition, where sales conversions on social media are around 2%, Fabrik users enjoy 8%.

According to Tamie Mbombo, head of Marketing and PR at Izwi loMzansi, one of the largest community radio stations in South Africa, says that the platform has revolutionised the station’s engagement with its listeners, and has led the digital charge with featured podcasts and integrated advertising campaigns on the Izwi mobile app. “Community media’s aim is to provide trusted information and expression, and Fabrik has helped do that,” he says.

The Fabrik team made some interesting observations based on the experiences of early adopters of the technology, including around community radio, where many advertisers and business decision makers are often dismissive of the audience. “For example, one of our clients is a station with an audience in the LSM 4-6 range. That audience is typically regarded as ‘too poor’ or too marginalised to go digital and yet our clients are proving that they are taking to it like ducks to water,” Molefe says.

He says that the take up by media entrepreneurs, either regarded as ‘on the fringes’ or as outliers, is the best showcase for Fabrik. “They are doing what they do because nobody told them they couldn’t – and it is proving to be a great leveller. We’ve seen how powerful this platform is in the community media space, which is why we are looking at boosting the rate of transformation.”

www.immedia.co.za

www.fabrik.cloud

[Interview] Dennis De Weerd, CEO, Incentro Africa

Dennis De Weerd is the CEO at Incentro Africa, an IT service provider delivering custom build cloud-based software solutions for the European and African market.

Kindly introduce Incentro

Incentro is an IT services provider with offices in the Netherlands, Spain and Kenya. Incentro Africa delivers high-quality custom build cloud-based software solutions for the European and African market. With Dutch development standards and close collaboration with the Fair Trade Software Foundation, we deliver software solutions that both impact our customers and staff. We are founded on the ambitions to make CSR more core of what we do and therefore we always look to apply our unique skills to build software solutions that contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. 

As the only Google Premier Partner in the region we support organizations across the African continent to work effectively from wherever they are. Especially relevant these days. We do this by deploying Cloud-based solutions like Google Workspace, Chromebooks and Cloud infrastructure. From migration from local data centers to Cloud to the development of cloud-native applications, Google Cloud is our tool of choice and we are incredibly proud to call ourselves the only Work transformation enterprise specialist on the continent.

The demand for cloud services is growing rapidly in Africa. How would you describe this growth?

With increasing connectivity and availability of reliable and cheap internet across the continent, it has changed the way people work. Cloud is a leapfrog technology, comparable to the introduction of the mobile phone and we are just at the beginning of it. Especially now the pandemic we’ve seen a major uptake in the use of cloud-based solutions, by even the most traditional companies.

Let me give you some examples to demonstrate what I’m talking about:  For instance, we migrated the Central Bank of West African States to Google Cloud based productivity suite Workspace in less than a week when a lockdown was looming. From working with traditional infrastructure from a central office to a highly secure cloud-based productivity suite that allowed their staff to work from home and boost their productivity with easy to use tools. So there are a few drivers here that boosted the uptake, but it was already unavoidable that this new way of working is the standard. Let me give you another one. Consider your startup, you want to offer a new service in a traditional industry. Let’s say you are a fintech, offering quick and reliable credit scores for smallholder farmers.

Are you going to invest and buy a server, even when you don’t have customers yet and you are stressed for funding? Are you going to create extensive scoring algorithms or prefer to train an AI model? Right, you’d choose to go for a cloud-based solution that offers you a pay per use model, is available right away, limitlessly scalable and offers all the great technology with the click of a button. But it’s not only for start-ups. Let say you are a large enterprise running SAP on your on premise infrastructure. You need to procure the hardware and software, maintain the services and facility and know-how to support your staff and keep the environments secure. Let’s say you are a large retailer, selling through stores and online. You’d need to provision your hardware for the projected performance you need for multiple years and take peak loads into account. For instance for black Friday or back to school campaigns. But most of the time the hardware is just sitting there ideally, no one is buying during the night time hours. Now put this in the cloud, you just pay for what you use, optimize to make sure you don’t use any resources at night and scale to manage that peak load on black Friday. 

These are just a few examples of the power of the cloud. So the trend we’ve seen in the US and Europe can be seen in Africa as well. It’s a leapfrog technology that allows organisations to deliver high performance as little costs and overhead. It keeps organisations lean and those companies that understand this, and of course it is mostly digital natives, are able to disrupt traditional markets and industries by delighting customers with new services. Completely changing the game and leaving big, slow enterprises behind.

African cloud computing market is generating a lot of interest and deals. Players like Incentro are positioning themselves for the boom in data services on the continent. What does this mean for companies like yours?

For us it means we are substantially investing in technical knowledge and growing our team of certified Cloud consultants rapidly so we are ready when it does. It’s good to understand that when we started in Kenya there were no certified Google Cloud Architects in the whole country, so in order to offer this service, we need to train and certify talented technical consultants to do this work. 

But it is not only about being able to do the work, it’s also important to educate the market. To date, most companies have no cloud strategy and there’s a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation of local regulations and a general lack of knowledge of cloud. So we invest heavily in the growth of not only our technical team but also a commercial team that is able to educate the market in the value proposition of cloud services.

Though we started early we see things are moving now. When we started our cloud proposition over 2 years ago, there was little demand, but the pandemic has accelerated this in many cases, though we expect the big uptake to take place from late 2021 and 2022. It is only when these digital strategies start to include cloud strategy and procurement teams understand how to procure for cloud that this will happen. We have seen this explosive, accelerating uptake in cloud services in the European market where the cloud market is projected to triple from >$25B in 2018 to <$75B in 2026.

Why is there a need for African businesses to migrate to the cloud?

It depends on the organisation. As mentioned in my previous examples there are different motivations for the different companies, but overall we see most of our customers make the move because it is more secure, scalable and more affordable. Large enterprises unburden their IT department from maintaining infrastructure and enable them to contribute to business goals. For startups, it’s a cheap and convenient way to get started and use amazing technology that is only available on the Cloud.

What are some of your success stories as Incentro?

Last year, we received a call from the Central Bank of West African States, responsible for the economy of 8 countries in West Africa. Their traditional infrastructure didn’t allow them to work from home and with a pending lockdown, they needed a solution, quick. We’ve been able to migrate and onboard them in less than a week’s time. This story even made it to Forbes Africa magazine and we are incredibly proud to have been the ones that made this happen. 

Another story we are very proud of is the one of Text Book Centre. They had been conflicted between choosing from renewing their on-premise hardware or choosing to go to cloud to run their company critically software. When the pandemic hit, the choice became obvious. Getting hardware in, sending people to maintain your data center, deliver high performance for a distributed workforce, being scalable (up and down) in uncertain times. All no brainers to choose for cloud over on-premise. Of course it is scary to take that leap and transition your core systems to Cloud.

“This was the most seamless digital transition I have experienced.”- Armand Houhau, MD Text Book Centre told us.

What makes your services stand out?

In the market, we sadly see a lot of resellers. Just pushing licences, without understanding the product or service they are offering. Incentro has 25+ years of experience as IT consultants and it’s in our nature. We focus on high-quality services, delivered by trained and certified professionals. From sales, through technical consultants to our 24/7 support team. We understand that Workspace and Cloud services are just tools that help your business to succeed. But only when applied well. Therefore we invest a lot in understanding our clients and coming up with tailor-made workshops, training and change management programs, etc. Adoption is key for us. We use our extensive experience to deliver this unique service to our customers, which are currently in 26 countries in Africa. By being the only Google Premier Partner in East Africa and the only Work transformation enterprise specialists on the continent we are awarded by Google for the impact we make on our clients. 

When you receive such amazing feedback after migration, you can only be very proud of your team that made this possible.

Who are some of your cloud partners and which customers you work with?

We work exclusively with Google Cloud. Their global infrastructure, completely designed and owned by Google has no equal. Did you know that ⅓ of all internet traffic flows through the Google network? Where other cloud providers are a patchwork of different data centres and ISP’s, each Google data centre is designed and built by Google to deliver great performance. Together with very competitive prices, unique services and product offerings, we decided that Google Cloud is our tool of choice and invest heavily in understanding every detail and ability of it. Google is one of the major 3 global Cloud providers. Though it might be the best-kept secret in the African market, for now. 

Any latest news from your company?

In December our technical team in Kenya worked amazingly hard to build a platform for Dutch people to celebrate New Year’s Eve from home. With 250+ artists joining in by offering live streams we have been able to reach +650k people that joined in on new year’s eve to celebrate New Year together. Built in about 3.5 weeks by a small team, of course using Google Cloud. Intense, but fun and very rewarding to work on.

www.incentro.com/en-ke/

Incentro has these vacancies:

[Vacancy] Incentro is looking for a Workspace Support Agent in Nairobi

[Vacancy] Incentro is looking for a Mid-level Google Cloud specialist in Nairobi

[Poste vacant] Incentro recherche un agent de support pour l’espace de travail à Nairobi

[Column] Mark Bannerman: Cloud and the Need for Agile, Accelerated Implementation

As we’ve seen in the recent stock-market crash, cloud business has a massive impact on the global economy. It is clear from the loss of stock value of a leading software solution provider, as a direct result of the crashing of its cloud business, that cloud plays a large role in the value assigned to the businesses operating in it.

Essentially, cloud solutions provide the opportunity to transform how companies operate, offering increasingly more direct business benefits. These cloud deployment advantages far outweigh applications delivered by traditional on-premises solutions. 

If 2020 has taught the world anything, it’s that the need to digitise will only increase as the globe’s complexities intensify. While many were forced to embrace work from home practices and digitally driven solutions to survive, it is what they do post-Covid that will determine their long-term sustainability. Digital transformation is a large consideration for future success. Through effective automation, business leaders are freed up to focus on wider business opportunities. Today, it is only the fastest, most agile companies that survive and grow. It is evolution at full throttle, and it is relentless and unforgiving.

According to research conducted by Tripathy and Jyotishi in 2020, shared in a Paper titled Macro Factors Affecting Cloud Computing Readiness: A Cross-Country Analysis, cloud readiness falls into two groups: “prerequisite” and “growth-enabler”. A ResearchGate abstract of the Paper confirms that findings suggest “factors like Per capita GDP, Governance, Business Environment, and R&D have significant and positive influences on the prerequisites for cloud computing. Similarly, factors like Governance, Business Environment, and R&D have a significant and positive influence on the growth enablers which affect the cloud computing readiness of the ecosystem.” 

A study released by Research ICT Africa, titled The Cloud Over Africa, looks into the state of cloud computing across Africa. According to this study, most of Africa’s cloud adoption is supply-drive. However, South Africa stands out as an exception. “The growth of cloud-computing services is demand-side driven through the corporate sector; however, there is a preference for private cloud services due to concerns around data protection and security. Nonetheless, it is believed that more companies will be forced to migrate to public cloud services and take advantage of the economies of scale offered, as a cost-cutting measure. The enactment of legislation on data and security in line with global standards will go a long way towards driving the adoption of these services.” 

Taking all of this into consideration – while factoring in the macro-economic factors of a disastrous 2020 – the key to successful cloud implementation is agility, speed, and simplicity. While many traditional organisations are cautious to move to the cloud during a year of uncertainties, making this move will have a positive impact on sustainable business growth. 

One of the greatest barriers to cloud adoption is the time to implement. With modern innovations, the need for agile, streamlined deployments has become the dominant concern.  Business leaders realise that a constantly evolving world demands technology platforms that prioritise agility – the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, embrace simplicity, and innovate faster and better with each iteration. Technology projects must now be focused on accelerating process improvements and Return on Investment. Rapid deployment strategies built on agility are the keys to delivering disruptive innovation. 

Infor’s foresight in terms of Digital Transformation started with by bringing standardised CloudSuites to the market. These industry-specific solutions were built on a refined understanding of what functionality should be included ‘out-of-the-box’. To further speed the process, the company developed industry-focused, pre-configured and flexible Implementation Accelerators (IAs). Delivering application configurations, implementation playbook, tools, and templates, the IAs offer a framework for implementing industry specific business processes, migrating data, establishing workflows, and educating users on the features and functionality of the solution.

With these CloudSuites firmly established, delivering the capability and agility for businesses to develop their own innovation became paramount. Enter “60:30:10TM”. The first 60% is easy wins; core industry leading processes that businesses can adopt with little effort (but do not provide differentiation). This allows businesses to adopt technology that delivers industry best practice, as quickly as possible. 

Processes that are differentiators, but still fall within the realm of configuration or small tweaks, make up the next 30%. This ensures the business isn’t starting from zero, but instead is choosing from options that can be tailored and configured quickly to best fit their needs. 

Now that capacity has been freed up, businesses can focus on the last 10%. These processes are highly differentiating and transforming them drives dramatically better decision-making, enhanced customer experiences, and improved performance within a specific supply chain. With this approach, businesses avoid getting lost in theoretical ways of engineering what usually turns out to be only a marginally better solution to a common problem. 

“60:30:10TM” strategy need not be a ‘big bang’ approach, so the technology must support continual innovation. Truly embracing disruption means continually embracing it on a long-term voyage. When it comes to the technology that enables this innovation, the business could plan for multiple go-lives that are often a lot faster than each previous project. Expensive and risky waterfall approaches instead become a strategic, rapid series of incremental improvements that shrink time to market and capital, infrastructure related investment requirements.

The reality is that uncertainty is not a good reason to stay on-prem. This 60:30:10TM approach drives greater certainty with innovative and agile cloud solutions, allowing for accelerated implementation to ensure no gaps in operations. The time is now. 

Mark Bannerman is the Business Unit Executive at EOH Infor Services (formerly Softworx), Infor’s Master Partner in Africa.

[Column] Francis Wainaina: Africa, Kenya and the Cloud – The Numbers You Need to Know

As a unified online platform for communication and collaboration, the cloud is now widely considered to be one of the most valuable resources we have at our disposal.

It’s reported that by the end of 2020, 82% of workloads globally will reside on the cloud and more than 40 zettabytes of data will be flowing through cloud servers and networks.

If African businesses are to take advantage of the opportunities that the cloud will present in the next decade, there are some key numbers we should all be paying attention to.

402.5 GB

That’s how much data European and American broadband subscribers used on average every month during the first quarter of 2020. This reflects an increase of 47% in broadband data usage from the first quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020. Of course, some of this can be attributed to global lockdowns increasing data usage for entertainment, work or online learning arrangements. 

This increase has been mirrored on our continent – with SEACOM recently doubling the capacity of its fibre optic network to meet the growing demand for bandwidth in Africa. It’s almost certain that these numbers will continue to increase, enabling cloud-based tech like the Internet of Things and AI-driven automation.

23 335%

In Kenya, we’ve seen our Internet use grow by 23 335% over the last two decades, with our Internet penetration at approximately 87%. The subsequent shifts in consumer needs and expectations caused by increasing demand for Internet access has led to aggressive network roll out and infrastructure upgrades using technologies that support high capacity services. As our Internet capacity continues to grow, so do the opportunities for businesses to use cloud technologies to realise efficiencies and reach new markets.

$331 billion

It’s reported that the average person uses 36 cloud-based services every single day with global cloud revenue estimated to grow to $331 billion by 2022.   

But what does this mean for Africa? If this continent is to generate and keep part of that cloud-revenue pie, governments and businesses need to do what they can to invest in, support and increase access to cloud technology. The cloud has the potential to have a profound impact on organisations’ abilities to innovate and compete on both a regional and global level, making infrastructure a priority.

7 123.36 GB per second

Trends show that Kenya is on its way to being able to embrace the cloud. This year, total undersea bandwidth capacity increased by 14% from the last quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020. The latest report shows that it is at 7 123.36 GB per second; this increased demand for bandwidth capacity is what will enable Africans to access all of the potential benefits of the cloud, and we are likely to see greater demand for additional IT infrastructure to accommodate the uptake. 

38%

According to the “Cloud in Africa 2020” report, 38% of decision makers across Africa increased their spend on cloud services in 2019. This is good news for Africa! It shows that African business leaders realise how important the cloud is going to be for the future of their companies and they are investing in the technology now so that they will be ready to meet demand for and provide innovative cloud-enabled services. Because the cloud also enables resource and process efficiencies, more businesses investing in the cloud also means that we can look forward to more competitive African organisations in the future.

6 in 10

That’s how many South African companies experienced a public cloud security incident in the past 12 months, based on survey data from cyber security company Sophos. On home soil, the National KE-CIRT/CC detected 34.6 million cyber threat events during the first quarter of 2020. This reinforces the need for well-secured cloud services in Africa. With so much at stake, business owners cannot afford mission-critical company information to fall into the wrong hands. What’s needed is better education around online security and cloud partners with the skills to guide businesses on best practice. 

Increased Internet infrastructure, increased demand for bandwidth, and increased Internet penetration in Kenya are signs that the future could be bright for the cloud in Africa. Not much is certain in the current economic climate, but trends show that these numbers will continue to increase in Africa and across the globe. If the right investments are made to bolster infrastructure and bandwidth over the next 5 years, Africa will be in a prime position to extract efficiencies and realise the innovation that the cloud enables.

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

[Kenya] Businesses to increase spending on cloud services by over 50% in 2021

Enterprises in Kenya are set to increase their expenditure on cloud computing services by 68 per cent in 2021 up from 38 per cent in 2020. This is according to the “Africa in the Cloud 2020” study by World Wide Worx conducted among eight African countries.

The study notes that there has been an increased spend on cloud services. The big shift in spending is accredited to an increase in hyper-scale data centres within the continent. Kenya for instance increased its cloud spend by 38 per cent with South Africa leading with an 82 per cent increase in cloud uptake.

“Businesses that had digitally transformed their operations recorded a 71 per cent increase in productivity, compared to their counterparts who had not done so and only achieved 21 per cent increase in productivity,” stated Arthur Goldstruck, a media analyst and commentator on ICT, mobile communications and technologies.

The Banking and Manufacturing sectors, recorded the highest spend on cloud services adoption with 53 per cent and 46 per cent respectively. Mr. Goldstruck added that going by the data from the study, it is evident that digital transformation in Africa is on the rise and organizations’ priority on cloud spend, is proof of it. 63% of the companies interviewed in the study indicated their top reasons for cloud adoption as driving business efficiency followed by operational flexibility and customer service which averaged at 53 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. Additionally, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of things and Big Data were noted as other business trends of priority to organizations in various sectors in the next three years. Their significance, ranked 80 per cent and above in the majority of the countries in the study. The key industry sectors keen on adopting the tech trends highlighted were Manufacturing, Insurance and Financial Services, Information Technology, Non-Governmental and Non-Profit Organizations and Banking.

“Digital awakening is no longer a choice but a necessity for the new future,” added Mr. Goldstruck.

Speaking during the session, Ms. Deirdre Fryer, Head of Solutions Engineering- SYSPRO Africa indicated that creating competitive advantage, creating new business models and improving customer experience are the 3 focus areas businesses should take into consideration when determining what they want to achieve from their digital transformation journey.  “We have seen a substantial digital awakening in Africa and if businesses adopt digital transformation in the mentioned focus areas, they are bound to greatly benefit and remain competitive in their respective sectors, stated Ms. Fryer.

Organizations such as Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS) and Synresins, whose CEOs Jane Masiga and Mira Shah were present at the meeting, use SYSPRO’s ERP solution and other cloud business solutions to automate the majority of their operations, ranging from supply chain management to customer care. They both indicated that despite the perceived high cost of digitization, the cost benefits outweigh the initial cost of adoption.

www.syspro.com