AWS provides $14M in cloud services to help advance equal access to health care globally

In its first year, the AWS Health Equity Initiative distributed $14 million in cloud credits and technical expertise to support health equity innovations globally.

The global need for health equity is receiving increased attention as new evidence reinforces the stark contrast in health outcomes from countries with varying levels of resources. 

Findings from the World Health Organization’s research on Social Determinants of Health noted a 19-year difference in life expectancy between developed countries and resource-constrained ones. The reasons for life expectancy differences are complex, transcending genetics, socioeconomic status, education, environmental conditions, and many other factors—and that’s why health equity is not something that any one government or organization can tackle alone. 

Amazon Web Services (AWS) says is committed to helping, and we see potential for cloud computing technologies to make a substantial impact in this area. In 2021, the company launched the AWS Health Equity Initiative, a three-year, $40 million commitment to support organizations globally that are inventing and scaling new ways to promote equal access to health care and address social determinants of health. In the initiative’s first year, AWS awarded $14 million in cloud credits—credits for AWS’s cloud services—and technical expertise to help nearly 90 organizations around the world—ranging from startups to nonprofits and large enterprises—to address this challenge.

“Closing the health equity gap will require new, better approaches to providing care—and our customers are doing just that. We’re seeing organizations build innovative solutions tapping into the power of the cloud to deliver better health outcomes across the world,” says Max Peterson, vice president of worldwide public sector at AWS. 

“Innovations range from a mobile technology-based taxi service for women in labor needing emergency care in Tanzania and Lesotho to genomic sequencing technology that is making it easier to address COVID-19 and other diseases in Africa. The creativity of our customers, paired with AWS technology, has unlimited potential to substantially increase health equity, and we’re excited to see how much we can accomplish together.” Max says 

Promoting equity through better diagnostics

AWS is now expanding the Health Equity Initiative to include a new focus area—diagnostics. Despite their critical role in treatment, diagnostics are consistently overlooked and underfunded, particularly in addressing primary health care concerns, including diabetes and hypertension. Noncommunicable medical conditions account for 70% of deaths globally, with a disproportionate amount of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Over the past two years, spurred by the pandemic, AWS has supported organizations using the cloud to power new diagnostic technologies to tackle COVID-19. Looking beyond the pandemic, sustained diagnostic innovation is needed across a wide range of diseases, and the new diagnostics focus area is designed to address that. 

Hyrax Biosciences is an excellent example of a company using the cloud to bring diagnostic treatments to low- and middle-income countries. The South Africa-based bioinformatics software company is enabling the analysis of the COVID-19 genome to better understand and track progress of the virus in Africa. This allows national and international health authorities to monitor infections, quickly identify and understand new variants, and take rapid action. Now with support from the Health Equity Initiative, Hyrax is scaling their genomic sequencing technology to address other diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria—diseases that disproportionately affect individuals in developing countries.

“Next-generation sequencing data is both large scale and computation heavy. AWS allows us to process large amounts of raw genomic data in hours, not days or weeks. The faster we can identify the COVID-19 variants spreading in Africa, the more quickly we can understand the diversity of the disease across the continent and provide the right care to as many people as possible,” said Dr. Simon Travers, CEO of Hyrax Biosciences.

The new diagnostics pillar will be the Health Equity Initiative’s fourth area of focus. The other three focus areas are increasing access to health services, addressing social determinants of health, and using data to promote equitable and inclusive systems of care.

Democratizing access to care

Beyond diagnostics, we’ve also seen big steps forward in tackling inequalities in treatment and care. For example, Seattle-based startup Hurone AI is democratizing access to high-quality cancer prevention and care. The company is building artificial intelligence (AI)-powered applications derived from data sources and algorithms from people of African descent to bridge the gaps of cancer care outcomes.

In Africa, oncologists are scarce. Estimates suggest that 10–20 oncologists in Rwanda serve a population of nearly 13 million. Hurone AI’s Gukiza app enables oncologists to provide remote patient monitoring and teleoncology throughout the country. Powered by AWS, the Gukiza app allows oncologists to communicate with patients using digital devices and text messages, increasing the ability to provide care to more patients in more places.

“AWS is helping us safely and securely expand access to cancer care in Rwanda. Using the cloud, we are able to scale the Gukiza app, address the African cancer data gap, and better support patients throughout their cancer treatment journey. By increasing treatment compliance and completion through Gukiza, we reduce costs from side effects-related hospitalizations and increase survival rates,” said Dr. Kingsley Ndoh, founder and chief strategist at Hurone AI.

Difficulties with accessing health services extend to primary medical care, as well. Emergency response personnel are frequently asked to provide support for nonurgent cases when a patient lacks transport or easy access to primary care. Arizona-based eVisit is helping emergency personnel offer telehealth services, giving underserved populations access to the care they need without requiring an emergency visit to the hospital. 

Access to the eVisit Virtual Care platform is available with a few taps on tablets carried by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to facilitate live, on-site, telehealth visits between patients who call 911 and emergency medicine physicians. 

“The cost and the ability to get to a point-of-care facility can be real challenges for vulnerable and underserved groups, and telehealth can play a critical role in bridging that gap. Our Virtual Care platform is designed to make it easy for emergency personnel to get patients the help they need and avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital,” explains Juli Stover, chief strategy officer at eVisit. “Running our solution on AWS and the support from the Health Equity Initiative program have allowed us to scale, helping us to get more people the help they need, when they need it.”

It’s still day one

Great work is underway, but more work must be done to close the health equity gap. AWS says it will continue to support customers using the power of the cloud to tackle this important global challenge.

aws.amazon.com

Monogoto partners with Workz for eSIM cloud as it gears up for IoT growth

Monogoto, the global connectivity provider, has partnered with global eSIM provider, Workz, to establish a cloud platform to manage both consumer and M2M eSIM devices for its client base across 180 countries. The agreement comes as part of the company’s continued growth strategy.

Embedded SIM (eSIM) technology, a key driver for the Internet of Things (IoT), is expected to be used in six billion devices such as smartphones, consumer electronics, health monitoring, transport, and smart energy by 2025. Monogoto uses eSIM technology to provide connectivity services for devices such as point of sales, ATMs, wearables, smart lights, fleets of cars and packages. The partnership between the two companies will allow Monogoto’s customers flexibility in changing network profiles and installing SIMs in QR code supported devices.

According to the GSMA, eSIM services have grown 500% in the last three years with more than 230 network providers in 80 countries catering for the next-generation SIM technology. Last year, Workz became the first provider to launch a cloud-based eSIM management platform for networks which is certified by the GSMA, and this May was identified as one of the top five eSIM platform providers in the world for the second year running despite a two-fold increase in market competition.

Itamar Kunik, Monogoto CEO said, “We are proud to partner with Workz and offer our customers a new platform for eSIM.  Moving over to Workz’s eSIM cloud was easier and a lot quicker than expected. The move gives Monogoto the agility to address the evolving connectivity needs of our customers and partners as they arise”.

Tor Malmros, CEO of Workz said, “eSIM adoption is rising rapidly as the opportunity for operators across consumer and M2M verticals expands – developments such as the first eSIM-only iPhone launched this month will only heighten this. Our cloud-based solution is designed to enable innovative connectivity providers like Monogoto to scale up quickly in this new market allowing them to move fast, grow, and achieve a tangible return on investment.”

www.workz.com

[Column] Dumisani Moyo: How to use the cloud to supercharge your SME’s growth

As global economic growth slows down and many developed and emerging economies face severe pressure, the SME sector is again taking centre stage as a catalyst for job creation and growth throughout the African continent.

Small and medium enterprises are the future of Africa’s economic development. SMEs can create more jobs more quickly than their larger counterparts, can stimulate innovation, and make a significant impact on their local and regional economies. And when supported by a strong digital strategy enabled by the cloud, there is virtually no limit to SMEs’ growth and innovation potential.”

The World Bank estimates that SMEs employ more than 50% of the workforce and contributes up to 40% of GDP in emerging economies. However, SMEs typically lack the financial and human resources of their enterprise counterparts, leaving them potentially more vulnerable to changing market conditions and other disruptive events, such as the pandemic.

Cloud and other technologies enable greater innovation, which is essential to the success and even survival of SMEs. Between 1955 and 2011, it took Fortune500 companies an average of 20 years to reach a billion-dollar valuation. Today’s digitally transformed startups can reach milestone that in a mere four years.”

He adds that since 2000, more than half of companies on the Fortune500 have gone out of business, with a lack of agility cited as a key reason. 

Companies that have developed their business models and processes with technology as an enabler typically enjoy greater efficiency, improved innovation capabilities, and can more easily adapt to new challenges or opportunities in their operating environment. This improves their chances at building successful, sustainable business models that can support the business strategy in the long term while still delivering to revenue targets in the short term.”

Why SMEs take to the cloud

African SMEs seek out cloud solutions to boost revenue growth, become more efficient, open up new markets, and adapt to changes in their working environment, for example, adopting cloud-based collaboration tools to enable remote working during the pandemic.

Every SME can benefit from leveraging cloud solutions to enable their digital transformation. Companies that use the cloud effectively enjoy greater flexibility and agility, and can more readily build competitive and sustainable business models that meet changing customer demands and employee expectations.

He cites the example of SMEs leveraging templates during their digital transformation efforts to reduce complexity and lower costs while still unlocking a broad range of benefits. 

One of the major advantages of working with a global cloud provider with experience across multiple industries is that SMEs gain access to best-practice templates that have been proven effective in similar industries or markets. This can significantly cut down the time to value for new technology deployments and help ensure companies enjoy the full range of benefits of their new tech.

Tips for SME cloud adoption

SMEs have several distinct advantages over larger companies when embarking on cloud adoption or digital transformation initiatives. SMEs are by nature smaller, more nimble and can therefore move quicker and adapt more easily. However, the road to cloud adoption is not always clear, and SME leaders need to be aware of key factors that may influence the outcomes of their cloud efforts.

Based on SAP’s experience with supporting SMEs across the globe with their cloud, technology and digital transformation needs, Moyo provides the following tips to SMEs:

Identify and prioritise high-value areas for cloud

One of the most important aspects of any cloud adoption strategy is to first identify where cloud can provide the most value to the business. If your biggest challenge is managing your hybrid workforce, then choosing cloud solutions that can track and enable better productivity can deliver the highest returns in the short term.”

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to realising the value of any cloud deployment is a lack of adoption within the organisation. 

Any investment into new cloud capabilities need to be supported with a strong change management program that is driven by top leadership throughout the organisation. When employees see the value of the new capabilities and can follow the example of senior role models – especially company leadership – they are more likely to use the tools themselves. This ensures the deployment realises optimum business value and has a transformative effect on how the business operates.

Empower your teams

One of the biggest disruptors to SMEs’ business models is the pandemic, which has upended many traditional notions of work and employment. 

Today, more employees work remotely some or most of the time than ever before,” says Moyo. “This has forced companies to reengineer their employee engagement and talent retention models to suit this new world of work.

Powerful cloud tools for tracking employee sentiment, for example, can empower companies with greater insight into employee expectations and help keep the pulse of their workforce. “With so many employees working remotely, it has never been more important to use technology to support employees and help ensure the smooth running of the business.

Find and develop critical skills

Africa’s youth dividend is widely published, but the continent still struggles at times to nurture and develop sufficient tech talent to power its digital economy. 

SMEs work with other partners in the public and private sector to improve digital skills development outcomes and help ensure they have access to the requisite talent pool.

Initiatives such as SAP’s Young Professionals Program give talented graduates a streamlined entry into working in SAP-enabled tech environments, and ensures our partners have access to the skills they need.”

Africa’s young population offers enormous potential for economic growth and innovation, but they need to be supported with suitable skills development and work opportunities. “With the correct investment into skills, African SMEs can help mobilise the largest youth population on Earth to drive and support the continent’s growth ambitions for decades to come.”

[Column] Richard Muthua: Kenya and Africa are ready to join the future of Cloud

It is sometimes too easy for the world to wrongfully assume that Africa lags too far behind the global cloud innovation revolution happening. That is a fundamentally flawed outlook. 

As of 2021, our continent accounted only for USD 1.2 billion of the global public cloud market, it has more than doubled in the past three years and continues to grow exponentially year on year. Soon, Africa will be among the world’s leading cloud innovators, and countries like Kenya will be at the forefront. 

It has been inspiring to witness first-hand the continued growth of Kenya’s tech sector. Ongoing expansion and improvement of data infrastructure are playing a critical role in pushing national economic growth beyond expectations. 

As of March 2022, total data and internet subscriptions in Kenya surpassed 46 million, according to a recent Communications Authority of Kenya report. This equates to 93.9 per cent of the Kenyan population compared to 31.4 per cent that were connected in 2013. The pandemic only intensified this growth as many businesses adopted remote working methods – calling for more adept cloud adoption strategies.    

In addition to cloud, the digital revolution also led to the creation of new skills in the fields of artificial intelligence, big data and mobile robotics. 

It would not be surprising to see 2022 become the year many African industries experience a massive surge in cloud solutions. This is already driven by the impetus of digital transformation strategies across the board and a need to gain a competitive advantage in a new normal. 

The reality of Africa’s historical low economic growth is the very reason that the continent is ideally suited for the speedy adoption of cloud technology. As Kenya, and the rest of Africa, look towards economic recovery and growth, cloud is the answer to cutting costs and increasing efficiencies as businesses move away from the requirement of hardware and installation. 

But this doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen alone. 

Liquid’s cloud ambition lies in partnerships

At Liquid Intelligent Technologies (Liquid), we have proudly built Africa’s largest independently owned fibre network. While that is a fantastic achievement, our ambition also lies in the cloud. We are part of a mission to build Africa’s largest-ever data centre in Lagos, Nigeria, which is being spearheaded by Africa Data Centres, another organisation under the Cassava Technologies House of Brands. This development will spur cloud innovation that has never been seen before on African soil. However, this will require some key players.  

As Liquid continues to make headway with the East-West fibre lines across the continent, especially through areas like the Congo, more interest will be generated from these multinational tech giants – adding to the exponential growth curve.

Cloud is the best cybersecurity on the market

One of the biggest deterrents of cloud adoption lies in the belief that a migration to the cloud will lead to more cyber-attacks. While this could be true, it is also true that the advancement and rising complexity of the average cybercriminal syndicate means that businesses need to invest more in protecting their cyber assets. With cloud, the benefit of economies of scale and availability of skill within a cloud service provider environment makes it easier to secure your cyber assets with the most up-to-date technologies at par with the threats. This could otherwise be too expensive and technically unachievable for an organisation using the on-premises option.

This will need accredited and capable partners to bring this to life. Liquid’s offering is designed to protect customers at every intersection of their digitally transformed business including network, people, and systems, revolutionising how cyber security is approached.  Our approach provides small and large business owners, enterprises, and government entities with secure cloud services that help them get an edge of their competitors on the continent and beyond. 

Cloud is the pathway to start-up success 

The last two years have emphasised the need to leverage digital channels to deliver on value propositions. Cloud allows businesses, especially those who are young and ready to grow, a pathway that is ready to scale at a moment’s notice. 

Since latency is such a widespread issue in Africa, serving a customer as quickly as possible is the key to competitive advantage, which is life or death in a start-up landscape. Nobody wants to see loading screens and unnecessary buffers when trying to access mission-critical systems. As soon as the customer experience is interrupted, the customer is already thinking of the competitor. 

However, none of this would be possible without a key player in the market who understands the need for resilient and scalable infrastructure—those being infrastructure providers like Liquid. 

For example, in May 2022, Liquid partnered with PEACE Cable Company to introduce 800Gbps of additional subsea capacity in Mombasa on the highly-anticipated global submarine cable. This will increase the availability of high-performance and reliable Internet connectivity access across Africa, leveraging Liquid’s 100,000km of terrestrial fibre across 12 countries.

The continent needs more proud enablers of cloud success. Through the right partnerships, programmes and events, we can continue to provide a platform for businesses and entrepreneurs alike to succeed in a digital economy and do so through the cloud – one of the most significant enablers of the fourth industrial revolution. 

Richard Muthua is the Executive Head, Cloud and Cyber Security at Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Kenya

When it comes to growing your cloud solutions business, customers are looking for value, not cheap solutions, Routed

Infrastructure is the foundation upon which businesses thrive and managed service providers build their businesses, but in today’s environment you need to offer unique solutions that show your customers value if you intend to grow, says Andrew Cruise, Routed Managing Director. Routed is a leading vendor-neutral specialist VMware Cloud provider in South Africa. 

A quick search of the current technology trends for this year and beyond reveals much of what we expect: the accelerated rate of digitisation in business and society, together with ever-increasing data volumes, have customers asking for stability, security, backup and redundancy, which are reliable and can scale. It’s a complicated task for any organisation.

The legendary Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker once said: “The lead car is absolutely unique, except for the one behind it, which is identical,” many managed service providers (MSP) are discovering specialising in the same solutions and providing the same cloud solutions from Azure, AWS or any of the other hyperscalers, poses another challenge. When MSPs offer similar solutions, they begin competing on price and risking margin. And the simplicity with which the customer can switch service providers places MSPs and their business at further risk.

The business of cloud, hybrid and multi-cloud is poised to become big business. If it is not on a customer’s technology roadmap yet, it will be soon. For clients of MSPs, cloud solutions for storage, network and processing mean costs and risks of setting up expensive infrastructure to try out new ideas are heavily mitigated. Hybrid solutions, for when public cloud services aren’t suitable, have also matured to the point where they can provide a ‘best of both’ solution.

In much the same way that hardware resellers became MSPs in the late 90s and early 2000s by growing their business by offering additional hardware, software and networking support services to customers, today’s MSPs are going to grow by being able to understand how to leverage the cloud in their client’s environments and offering a unique selling point. Unfortunately, offering the same solution as other MSPs and systems integrators is not it.

Microsoft partners are a dime a dozen, and its Azure services are an easy sell into many organisations, but they do not come without their own challenges. Sporadic outages, little support and surprise price increases are not uncommon. For MSPs competing on price, these issues erode what little margin there was in the deal. It shouldn’t be this way. Not in an environment that is in an intense growth phase. 

Clients seek value, not the cheapest solution; the challenge for MSPs is how they define what is unique to them and demonstrate their value.  For MSPs, there’s a good margin to be made, too, but it requires that MSPs step out of the perceived Azure (and other hyperscalers) comfort zone to offer a broader range of services. 

Cloud will grow regardless. However, MSPs who offer value will grow exponentially. This may require a little bit of a learning curve to onboard new technology, but what is often found is that cloud operators, like Routed, will provide world-class support to ensure a smooth transition – something which hyperscalers tend to charge additional fees for. 

Partnering with an accredited cloud provider is also more sensible than an MSP building its own cloud. In much the same way the client has a relationship with the MSP to provide outsourced technology solutions, Routed is ideally positioned to offer proven vendor-neutral VMware Cloud solutions.

Routed’s Cloud is simple to provision, manages customer workloads, and offers self-service.  And for those with the ability to set up networks, servers, and applications, setting up and managing the cloud for customers will not require a complex new business strategy and resourcing plan.

Having large workloads move to the cloud is inevitable, but unless MSPs carefully consider how they solve this for their clients, they are putting themselves at risk.

MSPs are a valuable part of the ecosystem and sit at a crossroads: take the path most travelled and congested with people who look just like them, or choose the other? The destination might be the same, but the reward will be greater, not only for the MSP, but for the client, too. 

routed.co.za

[Column] Andy Rowland: Eight ways edge computing can future-proof your organisation

Adopting edge computing is the next important step in future-proofing your infrastructure.

By moving data processing towards the ‘edge’, you bring real-time decision-making to where it’s needed. This supports whatever capabilities will be critical tomorrow, from Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered applications. 

Edge computing will be bigger than cloud computing

I’ve been working at the heart of edge computing for several years now, tracking the evolution of the technology and developing ways for industry to harness its potential. Edge computing is the new growth area, and I believe it will ultimately eclipse the take up we’ve seen for cloud.

I’ve noticed a change in how organisations are approaching data; they’re starting to think about how many versions of data they keep, as well as how they store and manage it. This is tying in with increasing concerns about the amount of energy used by data centres from a cost and sustainability point of view. Organisations are finding it makes sense to move processing close to where they’re creating and using the data.

Based on my experience, here are the top eight future-proofing benefits of adopting edge computing:

1 Ensuring business critical applications are always available

Hosting business critical applications in the cloud is a high-risk strategy because connectivity is vulnerable to interruption, for example a network cable being severed by accident. An edge computing solution supports smoother operations without disruption, even in remote areas. Reliability increases because the solution is less exposed to external interruptions and so its risk of failure falls.

This reliability, combined with the real-time processing that can support so many technologies that improve the end-user experience, can be transformative. Edge computing is an enabler for IoT technologies and AI-powered applications that unlock new, more efficient ways of operating that improve productivity.

2 Facilitating real-time decision-making

Bringing processing to the edge means data isn’t making a roundtrip to central data centres or clouds to be processed, so latency improves to the levels needed to support real-time analysis and decision-making. 

This near instant decision-making is critical to addressing so many emerging and future needs across industry – from optimising manufacturing processes and production scheduling, to running closed loop applications to optimise energy usage and reduce the carbon footprint.

3 Improving sustainability

Edge computing shifts the organisation towards more effective ways of operating that optimise energy use and reduce carbon emissions. It reduces the amount of data centre capacity needed by cutting the volumes of data sent to the core. 

In many cases, running some IT processing alongside Operational Technology (OT) processing at the edge drives efficiencies such as consolidating cooling requirements and combining maintenance visits. 

4 Reducing data and operational costs

Data is the lifeblood of global organisations and the volumes involved are increasing all the time. As data traffic grows, the costs of the bandwidth to support it are spiralling upwards, with no sign of stopping.

Continuing to send vast quantities of data to core data centres or clouds for analysis isn’t sustainable, and the costs of managing and storing this data are growing, too. Edge computing breaks these patterns, so that only intelligent, processed data needs to make the journey to the core.

5 Meeting data sovereignty regulations

Data sovereignty legislation is already rigorous, and this will continue impacting on organisations’ ability to extract value from data. Edge computing is a flexible way to stay compliant, keeping data storage and processing in-country rather than sending it out of country into a main data centre or public cloud. 

6 Supporting innovative applications

Talking to our edge computing partners, the biggest use cases they’re meeting at the moment involve private 5G networks and remote ways of bringing expertise into operating environments with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).

It makes sense that, after tasting the possibilities during the pandemic, organisations don’t want to go back to flying experts out to locations for training or maintenance, for example. Instead, they’re using smart glasses and AR apps to guide maintenance remotely and using VR for training. Edge computing is critical to delivering the ultra-low latency these applications need.

7 Supporting the needs of remote locations

Sometimes edge is the only option. For much of the natural resources sector, cloud connectivity is either non-existent, highly limited and / or very expensive. For remote mining sites and oil fields, edge processing is often the only choice for hosting apps to reduce expensive unplanned downtime and supporting local engineers with VR training for health and safety.

Recently we’ve been approached by clients keen to improve the energy efficiency of their bulk ore carriers and LNG tankers. In both cases, cloud connectivity is very expensive as the only option is via satellite, so edge processing on the vessel to run applications to optimise the use of marine diesel is the only viable option.       

8 Supporting faster deployment of updates and in-life change requests

Edge computing delivers local processing power with central control, and this can transform the arduous process of updating local information.

Take digital signage in retail, for example. Controlled centrally, it enables consistency over the customer experience and makes it possible to change all store displays at the touch of a button. Plus, centralised, remote configuration ensures consistency by reducing the chance of missing software patches.

Andy Rowland is the Head of Digital Manufacturing at BT.

[Column] Andrew Cruise: The hidden costs of owned infrastructure versus cloud

If your business, like many others, is faced with the decision of running your own infrastructure or migrating to the cloud, you’ve likely already done your homework. You know that although the benefits cloud offers are numerous, such as increased agility and efficiency, longer-term hardware efficacy and greater security, it comes at a cost.

And, at first glance, managing your own infrastructure might seem less expensive. But it comes with hidden costs few people are aware of. Businesses usually do this cost analysis when they’re about to replace their hardware during a refresh cycle, and considering cloud versus on-premise infrastructure. The argument in favour of on-premise infrastructure is always that it’s a once-off expense, plus monthly power expenses and a salary for an engineer, but that’s it. Cloud adds up over time and amounts to a larger number. And if that’s all that’s considered, on-premise often comes out on top.

But there are several additional costs to on-premise that should be factored in. These costs mostly have to do with risk. Businesses tend not to take risks into account in their calculations because it’s so difficult to quantify.

Besides the obvious risks of having backup and recovery systems for when the power goes out, be sure to also consider these hidden costs when doing an analysis:

1.    Expertise

We always tell businesses running their own infrastructure that they need at least two competent engineers to manage it, at a cost of between R50,000 to even R100,000 per month. One might seem enough, but what happens when that one person is not available? What if they’re hospitalised or resign and you can’t replace them (immediately or even at all) because of the global skills shortage in this field? You might even have another staff member who knows just enough to do the basics, but if something disastrous happens, will your business survive that extended downtime? Due to their focus and scale, specialist cloud providers can attract and retain the best talent, to ensure their cloud infrastructure is well architected and maintained.

2.    Sufficient spec

SMEs are especially prone to ‘under-speccing’ their infrastructure due to budget constraints. A proper enterprise solution not only means having sufficient storage, power, and processing but having that well into the future as the business evolves. Then there’s disaster recovery that needs to be considered and should ideally be a second site with matching infrastructure. Because such sites can sit idle for years until an emergency, businesses tick the disaster recovery box by keeping old hardware around for this purpose. And then, should it become needed, this hardware can’t do the job. Not being able to provision a sufficiently enterprise-grade environment on your own is a business risk. 

3.    Warranties and licensing

Software and hardware warranties and software licencing or subscriptions also need to be considered. Better cloud providers make sure everything is kept under warranty, while businesses often let warranties lapse. You might have the expertise to fix some problems in-house, but what happens when you need the manufacturer’s support or need to replace faulty hardware? Extended warranties are an important, often necessary, expense.

4.    Ageing hardware

Because the cloud versus on-premise decision is usually made during a refresh cycle, decision makers can be blinded by the brand new hardware they’re considering. But this amazing hardware will only be great for a while. In two or three years the hardware will start slowing down and there’s a cost to running slow hardware. Older technology draws more power and takes up more space – not to mention the performance sacrifice. And, of course, as items age they become more prone to failure. This “ageing” problem also exists in the hyperscalers like AWS and Azure – when one reserves compute instances for 1-3 years (at a discounted rate, usually paid for up front), one is stuck on that old hardware for that period. Good Cloud providers alleviate the cost versus performance issue because these providers are constantly upgrading their equipment. This also means you’ll always have the latest technology available, promoting efficiency and encouraging innovation.

Cloud is, in a way, like an insurance payment, it mitigates all these risks by providing the expertise, volume and scale that allows you to achieve levels of availability and redundancy you can’t achieve on-premise. And, if you use a specialist local provider, you’ll always have access to telephone support and the best expertise, ensuring that any problems are quickly solved.

Andrew Cruise is the managing director at Routed.

[Column] Marilyn Moodley: Saving costs while moving to the cloud at the same time is possible

Instead, the key is optimisation through a combination of rightsizing, migrating some workloads to the cloud, and putting a strategy in place to manage future needs.

Here are some important points to consider on your cost-saving journey.

Software licence reconciliation

According to Gartner, less than 25 percent of organisations have a mature strategy for optimising their licensing spend. That’s a lot of money being left on the table. In a way, it’s normal, because most companies don’t know where to begin. A good starting point is creating an overview of your entitlements and usage situation and a comparison between the two. Because some software programmes have been used for years, it’s hard to keep track of what licences you own, what you need, and how to optimise them. Some licences may also have been purchased for a specific project that is no longer running.

As this wasn’t challenging enough, many organisations started to deploy software programs in the cloud, which come with their own set of challenges. It might be the case for you as well. You may have migrated some systems or purchased new programmes in the cloud to save costs. But many workloads in the cloud may be over-provisioned if excess computing and storage capacity, as well as excess licenses, were transferred to the cloud.

If you want to optimise your cloud spent, you will need to look at software usage right down to the employee level. For example, check when someone last logged on to a specific product. If they haven’t for some time, it might not be needed anymore and you can either reassign or terminate that licence. Having this clear view of licence spend will help you determine the strategy you need to follow to achieve further cost savings.

Rightsize, don’t downsize

After a recon, it’s time to rightsize by eliminating what is not needed anymore. Start by going through all contractual documents. Read the terms and conditions included in your agreements and understand what their impact is on your current situation. Terminate licences that are unused (shelfware) and will not be used in the future. While you won’t get your money back, you will save costs by not paying the corresponding maintenance and support costs.

But terminating isn’t the only way to save costs. Rightsizing means eliminating everything that’s not needed. This could also include:

-Support: Some products still in use might not need maintenance and support at all. You can substantially reduce your costs by cancelling support (the average cost of support and maintenance is 20 percent of the list licence cost). Keep in mind that some products, like SAP, have a general policy that all your licence estate should be under the same level of support and would only allow partial termination if that is included in your agreement.

-Adjustments: You can also adjust some licences. You could have licences that cover more functionalities than your employees need or user types that provide more rights than needed. For example, everyone in the organisation could have editor rights, but only some employees really need full functionality. Rightsize by removing premium features from some licences.

Find an independent advisor

With the complexity surrounding licences and cloud spend, finding an independent advisor could prove to be a useful investment that will save costs in the long run as your organisation needs change. Microsoft contracts, for instance, are typically three years long. Those who signed a contract in 2019 would have experienced significant changes throughout 2020 as remote work became commonplace virtually overnight. 

SoftwareONE’s Microsoft Advisory Managed Services gives companies value for their Microsoft investment through increased visibility and leading support services while providing actionable recommendations to help optimise current contracts.

In addition, Gartner’s research notes an increase in software audits for companies of all sizes and industries. The four major publishers that perform regular audits are IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft. You typically cannot avoid an audit, but you can be prepared for it to minimise costs. Having an independent software licencing firm keep track of all your licences will help you navigate the audit.

Smart investments

The next step is to invest the savings you made into funding IT asset management (ITAM) teams to help you gain more insight and achieve bigger savings.

When considering a move from on-premise to cloud, for example, you will undergo just as much a financial transformation as a digital transformation. You aren’t just moving environments – you’re shifting the mindset – and an elastic model calls for ongoing management. ITAM teams should create a plan to manage SaaS or cloud to deliver significant value to the organisation. This means a 12-month ITAM roadmap – covering everything from traditional asset management and maturing (cloud and SaaS) to early adoption assets. A well-executed 12-month roadmap should enable you to expand your ITAM team to prepare for a more complex tech landscape, start managing SaaS and cloud technologies based on where you are today and develop key strategic alliances to meet the right business outcomes.

Marilyn Moodley is the South African Country Leader for SoftwareONE.

[Column] Sumeeth Singh: CFO becomes key to organisational cloud future

The ‘boring’ stereotype of a CFO simply being a sophisticated number cruncher is giving way to one where the role combines the best of technology with a financial know-how to unlock business value in a cloud-driven world. In fact, such has the pervasiveness of technology and the cloud become, that CIOs can no longer lay claim to being the sole custodians of this responsibility. In fact, a partnership between tech and finance is crucial if a company is to stay relevant. Think of it as sneakers meet suits for a brave new world led by innovative companies. 

If anything, CFOs must become digital leaders themselves as the finance role is reinvented given how rapidly artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation, and cloud have started to become integrated into every aspect of a business. And when you throw in the potential of real-time data analytics thanks to the high-performance compute capabilities of cloud, CFOs have a wealth of insights available to them to help shape the future business strategy. But if this is to yield maximum benefit for an organisation regardless of its size or industry sector, the partnership between CIO and CFO must be a smooth one.

Tech insights

The cloud is no longer something only the CIO needs to take responsibility for. Modern CFOs fulfil a critical role in helping get organisations cloud-ready. Their understanding of the business, its unique challenges, and where to focus efforts to enhance operations must be combined with a technology know-how and an awareness of where the evolution to the cloud can deliver the best returns. If a CIO is seen as being driven by technology, it is the CFO that needs to take that and inject it with financial analysis and insights to understand where the best return for the investment can benefit the organisation the most. 

So, moving beyond someone as just signs the cheques, the modern CFO takes their own technology understanding, combine it with input from the CIO, and then targets the best areas for the highest return on investment. There is no getting around the fact that the CFO will always be guided by the numbers. But what is different for the modern, cloud-ready organisation, is that this role is now influenced by the potential of technology and an increased willingness to explore risks (within reason) that can transform into revenue-generating opportunities.

All about the cloud

As recently as 2018, Deloitte research highlighted how CFOs are sceptical when it comes to spendings based on the promise of savings especially as how it pertains to the transition to the cloud. However, the research at the time did highlight the importance of finance needing a seat at the table when it comes to this kind of technology decision-making.

Fast forward to the present and the disruption caused by events of the past two years have illustrated the need for ‘bean counters’ and ‘tech geeks’ to work together if the organisation had any hope of surviving. Hybrid work, digital transformation, multi-and hybrid clouds, are just some of the ways in which things have evolved since the onset of the pandemic.

Perhaps more critically, companies have finally realised they can no longer afford to keep their data in siloes. If anything, it will be the CFOs and CIOs that become the stewards of that data as they work with the rest of the C-suite to bring improved agility into traditional environments.

While nobody is advocating a rip-and-replace approach to legacy solutions and infrastructure, the CFO is no longer focused on ‘sweating the asset’. Instead, they are looking at how to enhance what has been put in place through cloud-based solutions that can bridge the gap between the old and the new. The proverbial secret sauce to this lies in a cloud adoption/operating model that goes beyond just technology but holistically looks at the business overall. Being willing to look beyond crunching the numbers and apply innovative technology where it makes business sense to do so will result in a new agility being introduced to the business. Taking and improving what works and evolving what is not effective require the best efforts from both the CFO and the CIO.

The key to everything

There is no getting around the fact that the CFO is the critical cog in any successful cloud migration or adoption project. Having the finance department involved in all technology projects is no longer the challenge it was in the past. Far from becoming a bottleneck, finance can be an enabler to drive efficiencies faster. This can only happen if the CFO gets involved on the ground floor and provide the necessary input that can help shape the direction of the cloud project. 

And then when discussions turn to licensing consumption costs and the like, the CFO will be better able to make a more informed appraisal than if it is just something that drops in their lap when they need to sign off on a migration.

CFOs, therefore, need to dust off their own sneakers and start wearing them with their suits as they become more technologically informed and partner with CIOs to transform their companies into cloud-forward businesses.

Sumeeth Singh is Head: Cloud Provider Business, Sub-Saharan Africa at VMware.

BT launches next-generation multi-cloud connectivity solution

BT today announced the launch of a next-generation cloud connectivity solution designed to accelerate customers’ digital transformation.

Called Connected Cloud Edge, it extends the company’s global network into strategic carrier-neutral facilities (CNFs). This gives customers access to a wide range of third-party cloud-based applications and services without having to provision individual connections to each of them. 

It builds on BT’s partnership with Equinix, the world’s digital infrastructure company™. Equinix hosts major cloud and software-as-a-service providers within diverse digital business ecosystems at its facilities around the world.

The solution will initially be available at 13 CNFs and will be customisable with multi-cloud routing services and additional capabilities, such as SD-WAN and firewalls, further augmenting services already available from BT.

BT and Equinix are marking the launch with the publication of a report by IDC, What Digital Leaders Know About Cloud Interconnectivity and Ecosystems Development. It analyses how cloud networking is evolving to reflect a shift to cloud-native and multi-cloud digital ecosystems and the approach companies have made in adopting the technology. 

“Connected Cloud Edge will remove the complexity of sourcing and managing individual connections to the services underpinning customers’ digital transformation,” said Hriday Ravindranath, chief product and digital officer, Global, BT. “To do this, we’re pre-integrating BT’s network with Equinix Fabric™ to provide a fully managed multi-cloud solution.” 

“We’re delighted to be innovating with our long-standing partner BT, and excited for the launch of Connected Cloud Edge,” said Jules Johnston, senior vice president, Global Channel, Equinix. “To ensure businesses are ready for whatever the future might bring, they need their enterprise networks to be tightly integrated into platforms that connect the world’s densest ecosystems of cloud and technology providers. BT’s new solution offers companies the ability to build and evolve their multi-cloud strategies as they transition to cloud-centric architectures with the agility and resiliency they demand.”

www.globalservices.bt.com