[Column] Hardeep Sound: Cloud, innovation key to East Africa’s economic growth

When the early days of the pandemic pushed industries across East Africa into survival mode, it sparked a wave of cloud adoption that has swept through the region. 

Focused at first on ensuring business continuity, investment into cloud technologies and digitalisation has since helped organisations in the region build greater resilience and unlock new business models and revenue streams. 

Even the most reluctant businesses and their customers have now come online. One of the reasons is that the benefits of greater digitalisation became clear almost immediately. 

Businesses that took the opportunity at the outset to build new capabilities, establish new revenue streams or transform their business models rapidly gained an advantage over those that were slower to transform. 

Consider how the retail sector embraced technology to adapt to lockdown restrictions and reach customers, sell products and improve visibility over volatile supply chains. Many of the businesses that digitised with speed now enjoy the benefit of more resilient business models that are better suited to the demands of the modern economy.

Cloud at heart of region’s future success

For businesses across East Africa, the cloud presents a unique opportunity to innovate, develop new products and services, and scale into new markets or geographies. 

Cloud technologies offer access to services and capabilities that are prohibitively costly for most companies to build themselves. By adopting cloud solutions for key business processes, organisations can drive greater efficiency and optimise their business processes without the upfront capital outlay of on-premise solutions.

Taking advantage of the wealth of cloud-based ‘as-a-service’ solutions can also augment internal capabilities and unlock access to supplier networks, tech skills and other capabilities that were previously out of reach. 

Many businesses have experienced the benefits of such services when the first lockdowns created the need to enable remote work capabilities. By leveraging cloud technologies, businesses could maintain communication with teams and customers and ensure continuity. Today, cloud technologies play a central role in transforming how organisations measure, manage and motivate their hybrid workforce.

As the ripple effects of the pandemic travelled through the global economy, businesses turned to cloud technologies to improve visibility over their supply chains and assist with planning and risk mitigation. When a different, post-pandemic customer emerged, one that demanded greater personalisation, convenience and choice, organisations could once again leverage the power of cloud technologies to enable new ways of engagement with customers.  

Once-in-a-generation opportunity

Now, the region faces a golden opportunity to drive innovation and achieve new gains across their internal and customer-facing operations by leveraging the cloud. 

A recent study revealed that some East African industries have taken the lead with cloud adoption, including the banking, marketing, agriculture and education sectors.

Considering the importance of manufacturing and tourism to the regional economy, organisations operating in these industries should leap at the opportunity to digitise.

Business-to-business spending in Africa’s manufacturing sector is set to reach $1-trillion by 2050, and the sector is well-placed to grow and become more competitive through digitisation. By building Industry 4.0 capabilities underpinned by the cloud, manufacturers could unlock the benefits of AI and robotic process automation with predictive analytics to gain unprecedented control, predictability and operational efficiency.

The tourism sector was one of the hardest hit by pandemic restrictions as international travel came to a total standstill at the peak of the pandemic. Considering the sector contributed 8.1% to the region’s GDP in 2019, the impact of the restrictions on local businesses could not be overstated.  

By leveraging the cloud to build new ways of engaging with travellers and removing friction from the travel process, the tourism sector could tap into a global tourism sector hungry for new experiences. 

Three focus areas for cloud success

Businesses will benefit from choosing priority areas for cloud deployment that can deliver the greatest benefit with the shortest time-to-value, and use the learnings to drive adoption in other areas of the business. 

Based on our work helping organisations in East Africa leverage the cloud for business success, the following key focus areas could offer the most valuable starting points for cloud adoption:

1 Innovate, innovate, innovate

East Africa can benefit from greater investment into innovation and research and development to improve the region’s global competitiveness and lure foreign direct investment. 

The pharmaceutical sector, for example, holds enormous potential for research and development initiatives that can drive economic growth and create new industries while also reducing our need to import product and service innovations.

Regional innovators could consider to leverage the experience and market insight of cloud service providers with experience supporting pharmaceutical innovation. This can help avoid costly mistakes, close the gap on best practice, and ensure there is an optimal technology mix to support innovation. As an example, 18 of the world’s 20 largest vaccine manufacturers run their production facilities using SAP technology, so any new facility can tap into SAP’s domain knowledge to fast-track success.

2 Remove uncertainty from decision-making

The continued volatility in the global economy has created an environment of uncertainty that is hampering growth and innovation. To remove some of this uncertainty, organisations should invest in enterprise resource planning solutions to achieve greater clarity and control over key business functions and core processes. 

Cloud adoption can also unlock access to data and analytics capabilities that can empower decision-makers with accurate insights over their businesses, enabling them to guide the business through challenges more effectively.

3 Aim for speed

One of the greatest advantages cloud offers is speed. Instead of spending long periods of time building on-premise capabilities, businesses can readily tap into a wealth of cloud-based solutions to immediately enjoy efficiency and innovation gains. 

For mid-market organisations, this could unlock opportunities to quickly test new digital channels and trial new business processes. Successful trials can be rapidly scaled to the rest of the business or to new geographies, powering their growth.

Hardeep Sound is the Regional Sales Director East Africa at SAP.

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[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

[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

[Column] Andrew Ngunjiri: The state of the cloud in Africa – A partner’s perspective

The cloud in Africa is undergoing massive transformation and acceleration. There has been a huge uptake in cloud services, especially when it comes to SMEs turning towards hyperscalers. Meanwhile, more prominent organisations and governments have been embracing the private cloud. 

An EY study has highlighted a new wave of investments spreading across Africa centred on companies migrating to the cloud as they look at becoming more efficient while reducing their operational costs. Closer to home, the Kenyan market has always been one of the largest adopters of technology in the region.

Therefore, it is not surprising that there has been a significant interest in cloud services by both the public and private sectors here. Additionally, the public sector and the financial services industry have been vocal about investing in the private cloud to cater to their specific requirements.

This has provided the impetus for many hyperscalers to look at opening operations in Kenya instead of purely relying on their regional offices in South Africa, the United States, and Europe to service the region’s demands for cloud computing services.

 Cloud-enabled

Events of the past two years have made it virtually impossible for people to move around. The cloud has therefore become an essential tool for businesses to survive.

Beyond this, there are three reasons why the cloud has become a critical building block for the region. Firstly, it provides the business agility necessary to remain competitive. Secondly, the cloud helps to address any security and compliance concerns resulting from a rapidly evolving regulatory environment. And thirdly, the cloud injects a level of performance and operational efficiency not previously possible.

Even though public and private cloud models provide benefits, we anticipate the hybrid cloud model to win the race for massive adoption. We are already seeing hybrid becoming the natural progression of cloud adoption in the region, with many organisations and governments opting for this model. 

It comes down to a simple matter of practicality. When one looks at the cloud, applications are a massive driver behind its adoption. However, not every application is optimised for the cloud. This means companies must carefully review which ones make sense to move to the cloud and which ones must be kept on-premises.

Another factor impacting the decision to move to hybrid is the strong drive towards compliance, especially data protection. There has been a massive push in Kenya regarding this, with significant investments being made to ensure companies adhere to regulatory requirements. Having already invested in the private cloud, going hybrid means businesses can leverage shared services and infrastructure far more cost-effectively while maintaining compliance.

Navigating obstacles

This does not mean that companies do not face obstacles when it comes to migrating to the cloud. One of the significant ones relates to adoption and IT transformation. There is a huge challenge when it comes to keeping up with developments in this space. Organisations need to manage shorter development cycles and overcome their concerns around controlling costs and mitigating risks.

Because not all applications are cloud-optimised, going about modernising them can add to the complexity of the migration. There is also a reduction in IT budgets to consider. Across the board, companies in the region are seeing a change in ownership take place when it comes to these budgets, which are now moving from the CIO into the rest of the business. Practically, retaining and attracting the right skills for cloud adoption is an ongoing problem.

Organisations must also be constantly vigilant regarding security and compliance as driven by the various regulatory institutions. Additionally, the infrastructure must meet the performance requirements of a cloud-driven environment. Fortunately, Kenya has seen ongoing investments in infrastructure pay off to mitigate concerns around having access to fast and reliable connectivity.

Another obstacle to consider is how a company can derive the maximum benefit from the data it has at its disposal. With data being the new currency, many businesses need to understand how best to unlock the potential of their data.

Digital building blocks

Putting the building blocks in place for a successful digital transformation plan that can simplify the cloud transition is critical. An organisation needs to have end-to-end service capabilities in place. Discussions around the cloud and digital transformation have all centred on how to enable this service.

Companies also need cloud expertise. Some skills are transferrable, while others are not. A platform approach to discovery, management, and development across multiple technologies forms part of this discussion. It entails balancing between upskilling existing resources and using trusted third parties.

Throughout this, cost optimisation becomes essential if organisations are to be more efficient around their IT spending and reduce the total ownership cost.

Commercial models must become more flexible. The consumption has changed from Capex to Opex. Therefore, business and technology leaders need flexibility both in terms of their mindset and the business’s operational model to fully align to a hybrid cloud model.

 Yet, the cloud has proven its value to the region, and it will only contribute to accelerated efficiencies. But for this to happen, organisations need to be more open and adaptive to change to ensure they can future-proof their operations.

Andrew Ngunjiri is the Practice Manager: Intelligent Infrastructure at Dimension Data East Africa

Nokia Moves HR Functions to Oracle Fusion Cloud HCM

Nokia has selectedOracle Fusion Cloud Human Capital Management (HCM) to consolidate and replace its Human Resources systems in the cloud as part of its global digitalisation program. Nokia will use a worldwide deployment of Oracle Cloud HCM to manage all HR processes, including recruitment, compensation, and performance management, for the company’s global workforce in its 130 countries of operation.

In 2021, Nokia launched its ‘One Nokia Digital’ strategy to support the company’s competitiveness by digitalising its operations. As part of these efforts Nokia will replace its on-premises HR systems with Oracle Cloud HCM. Nokia selected Oracle Cloud HCM for its ability to standardise HR processes on a common data platform, which will enable Nokia to provide a consistent employee experience across teams and more easily manage and scale HR services globally.

“Optimising employee care and experience is a central part of our people strategy. Our aim is to deliver organisational agility, a seamless employee experience, and efficiency gains that support Nokia’s competitiveness. We are delighted to partner with Oracle because Oracle Cloud HCM provides a strong foundation to build digital experiences with true user-centricity,” said Lisbeth Nielsen, Head of People Experience at Nokia.

“By leveraging best-of-breed solutions like Oracle Cloud HCM, we want to bring Nokia to the next level of digital maturity. The implementation will contribute to increased efficiency and productivity and will provide AI and data capabilities that we can take advantage of to develop business performance and agility,” said Alan Triggs, Nokia Chief Digital Officer.

Oracle Cloud HCM will enable Nokia to connect every process across the employee lifecycle, helping improve decision-making and reduce operational costs. With AI-powered technology such as digital assistants and hundreds of new capabilities added each quarter, Oracle Cloud HCM will also enable Nokia to take advantage of the latest innovations and best practices to operate its business more efficiently and better empower Nokia employees, people managers and HR professionals.

“Nokia has a culture of innovation that has enabled it to lead its industry for years, and with Oracle Cloud HCM it now has an integrated platform, powered by the latest emerging technologies, to support its current and future HR needs,” said Cormac Watters, EVP Applications EMEA at Oracle.

www.oracle.com

www.nokia.com

Reimagining the IT infrastructure of the cloud operating model, IDC

Research by International Data Corporation (IDC) has revealed that 49% of CIOs across the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (MEA) believe that the cloud has the potential to play a significant role in driving innovation, creating new digital products, transforming business models and refining revenue streams and this will influence their spend over the next 12-18 months. Speaking at the recent IDC Cloud and Datacentre Roadshow, Jon Tullett, research manager for IT services for IDC Sub-Saharan Africa said there  are two primary reasons why companies should be paying attention to cloud and making it a strategic priority in the current environment.

“First, making the best use of infrastructure is always going to be a strategic priority for the CIO and, in many cases, the cloud is the best infrastructure choice,” says Tullett. “Secondly, cloud services and business requirements evolve very quickly so there needs to be a constant process of re-evaluating the services that are in use and assessing whether or not they should be refreshed or migrated elsewhere.”

That said, if cloud is to be a strategic priority, it equally needs to be given the right resources to ensure that it operates optimally. IT teams need to take a holistic look at their cloud operating models so that they are assured that the spending and implementation meet business value expectations and enable the business across the essential pillars of speed, flexibility, cost and reliability. To ensure these efficiencies and optimisation strategies, several common elements need to be addressed.

“A consistent security policy along with common management and central reporting are three areas where the cost of getting it wrong is immediate and appears as additional overheads and reduced agility,” says Tullett. “If you dig deeper, this leads to discussions around API management and integration strategies that, for many CIOs, are easy investments in the future. They don’t add much cost today, but payout handsomely as company use cases expand.”

Cloud deployments can fundamentally help the organisation improve its operational efficiencies over the long term, particularly those that have not yet fully optimised their technology environments.  This has already been seen in the measurable returns on investment and productivity found by companies already moving down the digital transformation road – they have realised benefits such as faster time to market, simplified innovation, easier scalability, and reduced risk. If a company can get its strategy and operating models in alignment then it will see improvements in these baseline metrics and overall operational capability.

“If an organisation is experiencing worse operational inefficiency after deploying into the cloud, then the cloud has been implemented incorrectly,” says Tullett. “As blunt as that may be, it’s the reality and asks that the organisation relook its strategy and approaches to turn this around. It’s not always obvious where the business is experiencing operational inefficiencies, however, so it is worth using the built-in telemetry in cloud platforms to assess performance.”

Use the tools and the third-party services that allow for the business to measure its efficiency. This will allow for it to measure and improve efficiencies as part of cloud key performance indicators rather than as guesswork and estimations. Also, do not stop assessing at the implementation phase when moving the software into the cloud because the real benefits only show themselves once the organisation actively leverages the advantages of cloud. These are, of course, agility, speed of deployment, inter-service integration, faster iteration, and consumption pricing.

“If you cannot express your cloud spend in these terms – across these benefits – then you may get stuck on first base,” says Tullett. “Then, once you have established these as your foundation, take these cloud advantages and overlay them over your entire IT infrastructure. You can get most, if not all, of these benefits with other technologies as well. Cloud is not the only option, it is a change in how you articulate business value and how the business aligns with IT.”

In the end, whether cloud, operations, implementation or transformation drive the business journey, every part of an organisation’s infrastructure needs to be held to high standards that prioritise strategic imperatives and align with mission-critical business objectives.

www.idc.com