Oracle to expand cloud infrastructure globally

Technology company Oracle has announced plans to expand quickly its cloud infrastructure around the world for hosting customer applications.

The company launched 12 new cloud regions in the past year, and plans another three new sites this year as part of the expansion announced in October 2018. Additional redundant and new sites will be added over the coming year, to take the company to a total 36 cloud regions around the world.

Based on customer feedback, the company has decided to build redundant regions in almost every country where it operates.

This will occur over the next 15 months, while also adding multiple new countries. When the expansion plan is completed, Oracle will have multiple regions in 10 countries and the EU, and multiple government clusters. It’s adding in total 20 new regions to the 16 it already operates – 17 for commercial use and three for government use.

New regions will be built in the Bay area in California; Montreal; Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Newport, Wales; Amsterdam; Osaka, Japan; Melbourne; Hyderabad; Chuncheon, South Korea; Singapore; Jeddah and another city (TBD) in Saudi Arabia; Dubai and another city (TBD) in UAE; Israel (city TBD); South Africa (city TBD); and Chile (city TBD). The government regions will be Newport and London in the UK and in Israel.

www.oracle.com

Microsoft and Oracle partner to interconnect Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud

Microsoft and Oracle have announced a cloud interoperability partnership enabling customers to migrate and run mission-critical enterprise workloads across Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud.

Microsoft and Oracle have announced a cloud interoperability partnership enabling customers to migrate and run mission-critical enterprise workloads across Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud. Enterprises can now seamlessly connect Azure services, like Analytics and AI, to Oracle Cloud services, like Autonomous Database. By enabling customers to run one part of a workload within Azure and another part of the same workload within the Oracle Cloud, the partnership delivers a highly optimized, best-of-both-clouds experience. Taken together, Azure and Oracle Cloud offer customers a one-stop shop for all the cloud services and applications they need to run their entire business.

Connecting Azure and Oracle Cloud through network and identity interoperability makes lift-and-improve migrations seamless. This partnership delivers direct, fast and highly reliable network connectivity between two clouds, while continuing to provide first-class customer service and support that enterprises have come to expect from the two companies. In addition to providing interoperability for customers running Oracle software on Oracle Cloud and Microsoft software on Azure, it enables new and innovative scenarios like running Oracle E-Business Suite or Oracle JD Edwards on Azure against an Oracle Autonomous Database running on Exadata infrastructure in the Oracle Cloud.

“As the cloud of choice for the enterprise, with over 95% of the Fortune 500 using Azure, we have always been first and foremost focused on helping our customers thrive on their digital transformation journeys,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and AI division. “With Oracle’s enterprise expertise, this alliance is a natural choice for us as we help our joint customers accelerate the migration of enterprise applications and databases to the public cloud.”

“The Oracle Cloud offers a complete suite of integrated applications for sales, service, marketing, human resources, finance, supply chain and manufacturing, plus highly automated and secure Generation 2 infrastructure featuring the Oracle Autonomous Database,” said Don Johnson, executive vice president, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). “Oracle and Microsoft have served enterprise customer needs for decades. With this partnership, our joint customers can migrate their entire set of existing applications to the cloud without having to re-architect anything, preserving the large investments they have already made.”

As a result of this expanded partnership, the companies are making available a new set of capabilities. This include connecting Azure and Oracle Cloud seamlessly, allowing customers to extend their on-premises datacenters to both clouds. Customers will also get a unified identity and access management, via a unified single sign-on experience and automated user provisioning, to manage resources across Azure and Oracle Cloud. Also available in early preview today, Oracle applications can use Azure Active Directory as the identity provider and for conditional access.

Other capabilities include supported deployment of custom applications and packaged Oracle applications (JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, Oracle Retail, Hyperion) on Azure with Oracle databases (RAC, Exadata, Autonomous Database) deployed in Oracle Cloud. The same Oracle applications will also be certified to run on Azure with Oracle databases in Oracle Cloud. A collaborative support model to help IT organizations deploy these new capabilities while enabling them to leverage existing customer support relationships and processes. Oracle Database will continue to be certified to run in Azure on various operating systems, including Windows Server and Oracle Linux.

“The alliance between Microsoft and Oracle is welcome news as we accelerate Albertsons’ digital transformation and leverage the full value of the public cloud,” said Anuj Dhanda, executive vice president and chief information officer at Albertsons Companies. “This will allow us to create cross-cloud solutions that optimize many of our current investments while maximizing the agility, scalability and efficiency of the public cloud.”

“As we look to bring our omnichannel experience closer together and transform the technology platform that powers the Gap Inc. brands, the collaboration between Oracle and Microsoft will make it easier for us to scale and deliver capabilities across channels,” said Sally Gilligan, chief information officer at Gap. “The interoperability between Azure and Oracle Cloud allows us to deploy Oracle or custom-built applications on Azure and Oracle databases on Oracle Cloud.”

“At Halliburton, we have a long history of running both Oracle and Microsoft technologies for our most critical applications. Our deep experience with these two strategic vendors has yielded consistently stable and performant application deployments,” said Ken Braud, senior vice president and CIO at Halliburton. “This alliance gives us the flexibility and ongoing support to continue leveraging our standard architectures, while allowing us to focus on generating business outcomes that maximize returns for our shareholders.”

www.microsoft.com

www.oracle.com

[Column] Ade Famoti: Autonomous IT, empowering business to be its best

In Kenya, cloud is no longer just a possibility, it is the fundamental tool igniting innovation

Cloud computing is rapidly becoming an essential component of business transformation. In Kenya, cloud is no longer just a possibility, it is the fundamental tool igniting innovation. At a high level, cloud is an economiser, requiring no massive start-up costs before results can be realised. Cloud is also an enabler: the very best technologies, ready to be put to work to help organisations innovate and differentiate.

But as technology has become essential to the operation of modern business, and complex, organisations such as banks, retailers and many others have found that to be leaders within their chosen fields, they have also had to become exceptional in terms of their understanding and use of technology.

Take banking as an example. A bank’s core purpose is to be the best bank it can possibly be, not to run the best ‘tech-shop’. The thing is, over time, banks have become ever more reliant on technology to enable that purpose.

And as that dependency has grown, so their requirement for staff to manage that technology has grown. This has resulted in the creation of sizeable groups of staff who are dedicated to servicing technology in the back end, rather than servicing customers. But customers don’t choose a bank because it has the best possible back-end technology. They come because it offers the best products combined with the best customer service.

That vision of being the best possible bank might be powered by technology, but it is the technology at the front end that makes the biggest impact in the eyes of the customer – and you can’t invest in front-end systems if most of your resources are devoted to maintaining systems at the back-end.

New wave of technology

Perhaps it is time that we let organisations get back to focusing on what they are best at – be that retailing, banking, or whatever their core mission is – and leave technology to look after itself.

It sounds like a fantasy, but it is the promise made by the newest wave of business technology innovation – autonomous technology. Combining the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, autonomous technology delivers the capability for IT systems to self-manage, self-repair and self-secure across a wide range of functions and applications.

Let’s take a step back to understand the concept of machine learning. While machine learning itself can be unduly complex, the basic ideas are easy to grasp. Let’s use the example of a business process both familiar and highly important to most organisations: selecting and on-boarding job candidates.

The basic components would start with a training data set: a complete history of all candidates selected and hired, their key attributes, how they were on-boarded, and their eventual performance in the organisation. Next, an analysis engine would extract key features that contributed to candidates’ success and create a recommendation engine that would rate new applicants and their likelihood to thrive at the organisation.

So far, this scenario is somewhat similar to data analytics, except that the algorithms decide which factors matter and which ones do not. Machine learning goes one step further. It processes ongoing results of those candidates, and continually updates its recommendation engine rules over time.

It learns from actual experience, and thus it makes better decisions over time. Think of adaptive intelligence as data-driven learning at vastly increased speeds compared with humans.

When applied in a database, autonomous technology can not only automate the process of cleansing and organising data, it can also ensure patches are applied and the data is secured. And when applied in a data warehouse, autonomous technology can interrogate data to find correlations and patterns across structured and unstructured data, and then present these as insights back to business users.

This is not a vision of the future, it is a capability that Oracle is making available to the market now. And it can do all of this with minimal human intervention.

Remove complexity, add value

The key difference with autonomous technology is that it eliminates complexity.

This frees people from performing many of the tedious tasks associated with managing backend technology, allowing them to focus on tasks that will make a real difference to their organisation and their customers.

As technologies such as AI, machine learning and intelligent process automation become more widely available, finance leaders want to know: How can these technologies help me in my business?

At Oracle, we are embedding intelligent digital assistants into our products and applications. In finance departments, digital assistants can perform similar functions to automate repetitive processes that consume employee hours – time that could be better spent on higher-level tasks such as faster decision-making and architecting a new financial strategy. Soon you’re going to see digital assistants help your organisation speed up financial year end, manage budgets, and perform financial forecasting. When viewed from an organisation-wide perspective, autonomous technology means getting back to focusing on what the organisation does best, safe in the knowledge that the technology is taking care of itself. So we can finally let organisations get back to doing what they do best. Ade Famoti is the Director, Sales Strategy & Business Development – Africa at Oracle

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

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

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

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

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

Security is hard

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

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

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

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

A new kind of defence

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

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

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

Security in the cloud

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

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

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

Time to let machines take the lead

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

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

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

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

[South Africa] MTN selects Oracle Cloud Applications to drive digital transformation

MTN has chosen Oracle Cloud Applications to drive one of the largest digital transformations in the global telecom industry across all its core business operations.

South Africa based mobile telecommunications major; MTN has chosen Oracle Cloud Applications to drive one of the largest digital transformations in the global telecom industry across all its core business operations. The implementation will help MTN drive efficiency, scale operations and integration across its local and regional operations.

“MTN and Oracle partnered in 2018 to complete the design of the Oracle Cloud Applications. 2019 focuses on finalising the build and deploying across our markets,”  said Belinda O’ Neil, Executive Boost, MTN.

The Oracle suite of cloud applications will also help MTN improve working capital through efficiencies in inventory management and reduce obsolescence. The implementation will drive further productivity through automation, self-service, IoT and mobile application capabilities; besides also enhancing management visibility across all business operations for real time performance measurement.

“With clear signs of economic recovery across key African markets, MTN’s decision to undertake large scale digital transformation will be instrumental in achieving strategic business objectives,” said Arun Khehar, Senior Vice President – Business Applications, ECEMEA, Oracle. “We are confident that the deployment of the Oracle Cloud enabled digital core will help MTN deliver value for all stakeholders and create differentiation needed to achieve market leadership.”

Under this initiative, MTN will implement Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP); Supply Chain Management (SCM); Enterprise Performance Management (EPM); Customer Experience (CX); Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Oracle Service Cloud solutions. 

www.mtn.com

www.oracle.com 

[Column] Andrew Sordam: Cloud computing unlocking rapid innovation in Africa

Digitalisation is permeating every industry, with cloud computing rapidly becoming an essential component of business transformation.

Africa is a continent pulsating with energy and this carries over from its beautiful cultures to business and innovation. Digitalisation is permeating every industry, with cloud computing rapidly becoming an essential component of business transformation.

Powered by the energy so infused on the continent, there is a focus on consolidation and a persistence as organisations drive digital transformation forward and improve the quality of ICT services. The speed of development in each region of sub-Saharan Africa is astounding.

Oracle has been present in Africa for the last thirty years and has been investing heavily in the continent from the very beginning. We believe in investing in the human capital of the countries where we do business in order to address the growing ICT skills gap.

This places Oracle in an exciting position. We are able to contribute meaningfully towards the roadmaps of innovation and transformation. Organisations across the continent are embarking on innovative digital transformation initiatives which is incredibly exciting, being able to participate in projects that are driving the continent forward in ways we can only imagine.

ICT is a large contributor to African society, with mobile connectivity enabling many enterprises to reach their customers like never before. Mobile and digital capabilities have given companies across the board new tactical strategies, such as fintechs using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to get a leg-up on traditional banks.

Companies in Africa can emerge from a situation where they have had more rudimentary applications and business processes to where they have unleashed the power of cloud technologies which makes it easier and far more efficient to automate services.

According to the IDC, overall spending on ICT in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) is set to grow 2.5% year on year in 2019 to reach $213 billion. Group vice president and regional managing director for the META region, Jyoti Lalchandani, adds that progressively more organisations experiment with emerging technologies such as AI and the Internet of Things to drive innovation and improve their customer experience. He says that the most important task facing the region’s decision makers is the development of an effective digital transformation platform that can sustain and scale business operations. 

CEOs and CIOs on the continent have the cloud at the centre of their digital transformation strategies, knowing full well that without automation they will either be out of business, or be steering an organisation with flawed reporting. The ability to harvest, store and sort big data is a critical element of business competitiveness.

Business leaders are seeing first-hand how the cloud is an enabler for innovation. Although we are progressively seeing an increase in movement to the cloud, a smart bet would be on many organisations going the route of cloud at customer. Oracle Cloud at Customer is designed to enable organisations to remove one of the biggest obstacles to cloud adoption—data privacy concerns related to where the data is stored.

In our experience, while organisations are eager to move their enterprise workloads to the public cloud, many have been constrained by business, legislative and regulatory requirements that have prevented them from being able to adopt the technology. Oracle Cloud at Customer provides organisations with choice regarding where their data and applications reside and a natural path to eventually, and easily, move business critical applications to the public cloud.

On the continent there is no illusion about the importance of putting in place foundational infrastructure, and various industries are consolidating in order to tap into the power of automation, AI, machine learning and more. A traditional brick-and-mortar operation can transform into a customer-focused, smart, reactive, relevant enterprise.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) partnered with Oracle in order to solve problems that had hampered the country’s revenue collection. A cumbersome and painful tax filing system meant the compliance rate was terribly low. The KRA’s vision is commitment to the concept of customer centricity. The implementation and rollout of iTax powered by Oracle Service Cloud, Policy Automation, Social Cloud and Marketing Cloud has brought the authority that much closer to achieving this. The end result is collecting more revenue to drive the development of the country, while also empowering its staff to serve customers in a digital era.

Digital transformation has meant there needs to be a coordinated approach to addressing the skills shortage as well as the risks that technological disruption is causing, such as cyber security. We have put in place numerous initiatives to help address this challenge, with programmes across sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and more.

In 2017, Oracle Academy and The Global Peace Foundation of Kenya signed an agreement that will allow our academy to support 24 public high schools in Kenya. As part of this, Oracle will train 180 teachers over three years to start teaching our Oracle Academy Java and Database courses. Driving the focus towards closing the skills gap is vital for big technology companies such as Oracle.

A similar example is found in Nigeria, where Oracle Academy has announced a partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education in that country, where the ministry will introduce our Oracle Academy computer science curriculum across 10,000 academic institutions, reaching 1,5-million students. To complement this, the Academy will facilitate the upskilling of 4,000 educators.

In South Africa, our Oracle Graduate Leadership Programme, launched in 2014, helps youth develop specialised IT skills required to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution. The programme has delivered eighty-four graduates to date and creates a future skills pipeline for our company and our partner community in the region.

There must be action behind rhetoric. Companies must put their visions and strategy into action and together we will unleash the immense potential of this continent. There used to be a saying about dreamers: “their head is in the clouds”. How appropriate that the dream of a technologically competitive Africa, which is unfolding at a rapid pace and is not fantasy but proven reality, also resides in the cloud.

Andrew Sordam is the Vice President for sub-Saharan Africa at Oracle

[Column] Corine Mbiaketcha Nana: Five essential steps to close the cloud skills gap in Kenya

The ability to find and retain cloud-savvy, IT staff continues to be considered as one of the key barriers to cloud adoption according to Oracle’s latest ‘You & IaaS’ survey.

The ability to find and retain cloud-savvy, IT staff continues to be considered as one of the key barriers to cloud adoption according to Oracle’s latest ‘You & IaaS’ survey.

As Infrastructure-as-a-Service adoption grows and the technology matures, the availability of staff with specialist skills is being surpassed by demand. The survey found that more than one-fifth (28 percent) of companies say that IT skills shortages have been one of their top issues in rolling out IaaS.

Closer to home, a research study by RANITP (Research Academic Network on IT Policy), Research ICT Africa and the University of Nairobi on the state of cloud service usage in Kenya, found that businesses highlighted DevOps, software development, system administration and networking skills as crucial for cloud delivery. In addition, they pointed out that information security, as well as contract and project management skills, are essential for migrating, maintaining and supporting cloud services.

No wonder, moving to the cloud is still deemed to be risky by some CIOs; but should it be?

The reality is that the bigger risk is not moving to the cloud, which is rapidly proving itself as easier to manage, maintain and secure than traditional IT environments. In particular, cloud services are vastly more secure than many on-premise alternatives, since leading cloud vendors such as Oracle invest in creating a highly robust security infrastructure that is continually patched and kept up-to-date. This level of investment in security can never be matched in an on-premise environment.

What I see from talking to CIOs across Africa is that the skills gap issue relates less to having cloud-specific skills; it is instead a mindset challenge.

In his Africa blog post, Frank Rizzo, partner, Technology Sector Leader for Africa at KPMG says cloud computing is not driven solely by technical experts any longer, but by business leaders looking to leverage it from an overall business perspective.

So what are the gaps and how can companies overcome them?

1. Hiring for the cloud era

Creating a team for the future will inevitably affect the hiring process. Rather than look for new employees from traditional, external sources – most likely direct competitors – CIOs should aim to recruit from cloud-native companies. These staff are used to handling data in the cloud and with the cloud skills required.

Once onboard, there are two main options for how to make the most of this talent. Use the new hires to fill the gaps and educate the rest of the team, or build a completely new team that’s cloud-first by design. This approach can motivate the business and act as a catalyst for innovation.

2. Internal talent

Don’t forget you already might have internal talent that has the potential to shine in a cloud world.  Holding or attending ‘hackathons’ or offering existing staff the opportunity to volunteer to take part in new cloud projects could give you the opportunity to spot skills you didn’t know the team possessed.

This is an approach that the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is taking. To support its strategic drive to enhance service delivery to taxpayers, KRA deployed a new Customer Relationship Management Solution (CRMS) that provides it with a single platform to better understand customer needs and respond to their demands more quickly and efficiently.

KRA has been undertaking extensive staff training programmes to guarantee superior customer interaction management with taxpayers. Its CRM training is divided into four areas based on the role various groups play, including end-user, back office staff, and administrator training as well as the training of trainers. Change management initiatives and staff sensitization workshops are also carried out to create system awareness.

Another thing to consider is that some of the team’s existing expertise can be transferred to the cloud.  In some cases, new cloud services, in fact, mirror their on-premises counterparts, making the transfer of skills more achievable.

Re-training existing members of staff is also critical. There are a range of options to help organizations upskill their IT teams through training; from government programmes through to vendor academies, such as the Oracle Academy. The latter are useful for providing both the technical skill set required and the necessary security and compliance training.

3. Think big

Infrastructure cloud services enable businesses to operate elastically, at a vastly increased scale. This gives the company an amazing opportunity to change the dynamics of how they operate. Instead of just migrating individual databases, think bigger, consolidating the various data sets you have around the business into a unified dataset. There are multiple benefits of this. At a base level, you can have more applications per server and manage them all as one, and with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning becoming more widespread you can be prepared to take maximum use of these exciting emerging technologies by creating a single data asset.

4. Data orchestration

Businesses are increasingly seeking to become data-driven. IT teams need to stop looking at data and processes as systems issues and instead regard them as profit opportunities. This means thinking about how business information can be turned into actionable insights that lead to customer engagement and profitable growth.

5. Advanced data management

Data is the new oil for businesses: a huge source of potential wealth if mined, refined and distributed well. A core skill for enterprise IT teams is, therefore, how to store, manage and transport data. This means extending skills beyond technology to include data governance and compliance capabilities.

Any enterprise that’s serious about leveraging the cloud to innovate and grow needs to have these skills entrenched in their IT teams. It is therefore vital that organizations go about building cloud-ready teams in the right way.

If enterprise IT teams can close the cloud skills gap, the rewards will be well worth the effort. The renewed, high-performing team will quickly demonstrate value to the C-suite and other key corporate stakeholders while enabling a core competitive differentiator for the business.


Corine Mbiaketcha Nana, Managing Director Kenya Hub covering East, Central and West Africa at Oracle.