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HPE readies to drive AI cloud in South Africa

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 26 Jul 2023
President Ntuli, director of HPE GreenLake Cloud Services across the UK, Ireland, Middle East and Africa.
President Ntuli, director of HPE GreenLake Cloud Services across the UK, Ireland, Middle East and Africa.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has confirmed plans to roll out its artificial intelligence (AI)-driven cloud offering locally, possibly in a couple of months.

This was revealed by President Ntuli, director of HPE GreenLake Cloud Services across the UK, Ireland, Middle East and Africa.

Ntuli and HPE South Africa’s leadership team yesterday addressed media on the sidelines of the South African leg of HPE GreenLake Day in Johannesburg.

Billed as a competitor to Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft’s AI-based cloud solutions, HPE GreenLake for large language models (LLMs) was announced in June, in line with expanding the HPE GreenLake portfolio.

According to the company, HPE GreenLake for LLMs enables enterprises to privately train, tune and deploy large-scale AI using a supercomputing platform that combines HPE’s AI software and supercomputers.

At the time, the company said HPE GreenLake for LLMs will be delivered in partnership with its first partner Aleph Alpha, a German AI start-up, noting it as a first in a series of industry- and domain-specific AI applications it plans to launch in the future.

While there isn’t a set timeline in place right now for HPE GreenLake for LLMs in South Africa, Ntuli indicated local availability will “definitely” be in the “next few months”.

“We started with North America, and next up will be Europe. As we move forward, we are going to make those technologies available around the world as well.

“The good thing is that the technology is available and we are able to leverage it. If some of the South African customers don’t mind where the solution is hosted, we could look at how we drive some of the pilots and proof of value so that they become familiar with the technology. This is so that when we launch here, we are able to bridge the gap in terms of knowledge and skills for the South African market.”

Ntuli explained the idea behind HPE GreenLake for LLMs is to democratise AI cloud by making it available, not only to supercomputing users, but to the commercial space as well.

It’s also intended to address challenges around investment and skills, he stated. “AI has always been there with us, but it’s really starting to take shape now. We recognise the opportunity to drive real business outcomes. AI technologies that are used today are much more relevant because they deal with real business cases – they are taking IT from the back-end and putting it in the front end.

“However, there are two main challenges in the adoption of AI. Firstly, it is affordability. If you want to drive huge research projects, you need to invest a lot of money into buying a supercomputer, to churn that amount of data.

“From an HPE perspective, we are making AI available on cloud, where we are building this AI-driven infrastructure for customers to be able to share and use the data, so that they don’t have to buy and build their own supercomputers.”

The second challenge, he stated, is around skills. “We are putting a lot work in terms of how these AI modules are trained because AI does not replace humans, it needs to be trained and we need to ensure the inference that goes with it is suitable and can complement human behaviour.”

Sandile Dube, country manager of HPE South Africa, added that within the South African context, there is always the threat of job losses that AI brings, especially given the country’s high unemployment rate.

However, instead of seeing it as a threat, there needs to be a shift to embrace the opportunities that it brings, Dube commented.

“I think we have to alter that perspective and look at it from a point of view that considers the opportunities created by AI, particularly in building new skills, enabling our people to develop skills that can lead to the creation of more jobs and also deliver more efficiency back into the economy and our businesses, and enable government to deliver a far better citizen experience.”