SA's political shake-up brings new hope, says Oracle

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 16 Apr 2018
Niral Patel, Oracle SA's MD and technology leader.
Niral Patel, Oracle SA's MD and technology leader.

The political changes witnessed in SA during the beginning of 2018 have given new hope in the local enterprise software market space.

So said Niral Patel, Oracle SA's MD and technology leader, in an interview with ITWeb last week. During the interview, Patel, who was appointed in July last year, spoke about the company's business strategy, trends, as well as the opportunities Oracle sees in the market.

Since president Cyril Ramaphosa replaced former president Jacob Zuma in February, investors and local businesses have been upbeat that he will bring positive change to the economy.

Patel said the political leadership changes have created renewed sentiment in the market. "But are we ready to open our wallets and change our spending in the market? The answer is no."

He believes it's going to take SA some time before businesses can start reaping the benefits of the change.

"We need to see significant change relating to GDP [gross domestic product] in this country. We need to see unemployment reducing significantly, and the only way that can happen is through GDP growth. However, the sentiment is good, the mood is improving - the feeling of 'something good is about to happen' is there," Patel said.

Cloud push

Oracle is going through transformation of its own. Previously, well-known to be a database company, Oracle, which some pundits dub a late-entrant into the cloud market, is aggressively driving its cloud offerings line-up.

Patel pointed out that the transformation he has seen in his short term at Oracle is related to cloud computing.

Market analyst firm Gartner says the public cloud market is set to grow 21.4% in 2018 to total $186.4 billion. Almost 40% of this will come from software-a-a-service (SaaS), with a quarter to come from what Gartner calls cloud business process services, delivering business process outsourcing, and 22% to come from infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS).

Oracle still has a relatively small share in the cloud market, trailing behind the likes of Amazon and Microsoft, among others.

Nonetheless, Patel is bullish about Oracle's prospects in the market. "So much has evolved in regards to the company's product offerings globally and locally. This is to the point that you quickly realise we play across every aspect of the stack, all the way from the chipset to software-as-a-service."

He noted Oracle has been spending huge amounts of resources (money, time and people) to ensure it brings a fully-integrated cloud offering to the market. That spans IaaS, platform-as-a-service and SaaS.

"That transformation has happened very quickly and what we put out in the market today are enterprise-ready solutions related to cloud."

To catch up with the competition, Patel said Oracle has become a very fast-paced organisation. "One fundamental difference at Oracle is that when our board or CEO directs us to do something, it is executed down to the sales person selling to our customers and partners in a space of 24 to 48 hours. So the pace at which we roll out our services happens very quickly."

According to Patel, Oracle has around 200 000 full-time employees globally.

Data centre question

Oracle's competitors like Microsoft and Amazon Web Services have indicated there are plans to build data centres in SA.

Responding to these developments, Patel said: "It will be premature for me to comment on that. However, our strategy is slightly different from what our competitors are doing. We are bringing to our customers the economics and flexibility that cloud gives you but we put it in your data centre behind your firewall," he said.

"No matter who you are, as a user of cloud services, you run into the challenges of laws like the Protection of Personal Information Act, data sovereignty, data residency, security issues and so forth. However, our cloud customers' information sits in their own data centre behind their firewall. What we also bring is the consumption and subscription model from a pricing point of view."

In regards to the company's channel strategy in SA, Patel said Oracle already has an extensive and mature partner network, not only locally but globally.

"As we evolve, these partners will naturally have to evolve their businesses as well." However, Oracle SA is looking for new partners as it also wants to identify new business opportunities in the market.

The company has close to 1 000 transacting partners across the African region.