First Distribution's MSP, hosting roadshow: a report on the Cape Town event

Cape Town, 04 Feb 2014
Read time 8min 10sec

First Distribution's Hosting Division hit the road in late January and early February to kick off the new year with an awareness campaign around cloud, managed service providers, hosting and some of the pressing issues surrounding these topics.

Tristan Penver reports on the Cape Town event:

With the IDC estimating that 98% of all IT revenue will be coming from so called "third platform" technology by 2020, First Distribution's partners operating in the cloud and hosting space were urged to attend an informative event being held locally in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg for their own benefit.

The agenda looked at the following topics:

* Opening and market update
* VMware VSPP programme update
* Microsoft SPLA programme
* VDI and DaaS (desktop as a service)
* Compliance and reporting
* The legal cloud

First Distribution's Cloud & Hosting Business Unit Manager, Kevin Derman, kicked off proceedings by providing a market update, specifically mentioning the huge IT boom being experienced by emerging markets and the opportunities which exist therein.

Value migration and specialisation is also pertinent to cloud, with many older value models becoming commoditised of late, forcing businesses to shift their models. BYOS (bring your own software) is steadily becoming a bigger issue, leading to a further complication known as cloud sprawl. This creates difficulties for IT managers due to lack of connectedness, security and control. Derman also touched on data brokers, as well as big data analytics services being services and careers which have arisen out of the advent of cloud.

Connectedness is no doubt becoming a major trend, with the Internet of Things also now a major buzzword in today's IT environment. First Distribution sits well-placed to take advantage of this connectedness, owing to its variety of products and services spread across a variety of market segments.

First Distribution Senior Account Manager, Darren Naidu, provided the audience with an update on VMware's VSPP Programme. Naidu alluded to various bundles available at different price points, explaining the differences between the various bundles. The usage of points in the programme can be confusing to some, so Naidu took some time to clear, explain and clarify how the points system works, as well as the metering and reporting tools.

What's new in the programme? VMware's vCloud Director - VMware is re-engineering the product specifically for managed service providers, which should ultimately result in better reporting. Changes in minimum commitments in the Premier and Enterprise Partner levels will be announced shortly as well. vCloud Hybrid Service, VMware's public cloud, is also available to service providers to onsell as a service as a means to compete with Amazon's AWS. Naidu finished by mentioning that VMware is one of the largest cloud service providers and is still showing 100% year-on-year growth in the VSPP space. For more information on anything regarding VSPP, please contact Naidu on

Esther Matshego, another First Distribution Senior Account Manager, came on to give updates on the Microsoft SPLA Programme. One of the recent changes is that for the first six months after a partner signs up, they are allowed to report zero usage, the minimum reporting fee of $100 only kicking in on the seventh month. Electronic SPLA forms have also been added to Microsoft's Electronic Agreements, mercifully making everyone's lives easier in this regard. Esther went into detail around the practices surrounding virtualisation and Windows Server within the SPLA environment, and some of the rules, regulations and cost-efficiencies surrounding standard licences and data centre licences. Cloud Platform Suite and SQL 2012 came under the microscope as well, with regards to the licensing, pricing and discontinued product editions. For more information on anything regarding SPLA, please contact Esther on

Derman returned briefly to shed some light on desktop as a service (DaaS), noting this is becoming an increasingly popular issue due to the mobility aspect of current devices. Security is an important consideration for DaaS, but solutions exist by way of encryption applications or moving the information off the device itself onto a data centre, which is naturally far more secure. Some of the myths existing around DaaS include:

* DaaS cannot be done under Microsoft (it actually can, either through SPLA, or through dedicated outsourcing);
* DaaS is expensive like traditional VDI (it's not, being opex rather than capex);
* Security is an issue;
* DaaS does not support BYOD (Citrix can supply your desktop OS to any device);
* DaaS requires lots of bandwidth (all that's transmitted is the clicks and pixel changes); and
* The disconnected user is a deal-breaker (24/7 users should not be on DaaS in the first place).

For more information on anything regarding DaaS, please contact Derman on

Antoinette de Waal from PwC Exordia was up next, speaking specifically regarding compliance and reporting in hosting environments. She mentioned that some of the common compliance pitfalls for service providers consisted of:

1) User accounts - is your data source dependable for determining licence accounts and does the source comply with the vendor requirements?

2) Variable licence metrics - with SQL licensing rules having recently changed, for example, one needs to know when the new licence rules must be implemented.

3) License mobility - knowing which rules to follow at which time has a huge impact within the added complications of mobility licensing.

4) Product dependencies - a lot of products are dependent on other vendors, and how one's portfolio of products and vendors impact each other, makes a big difference to your licensing requirements.

5) Hardware and virtualisation - virtualisation is complicating licensing these days, with both hardware and software administrators needing to be knowledgeable regarding licensing requirements.

She also had the following advice regarding addressing compliance issues:

Knowledge is power - knowing what is going on in your environment is the biggest thing... what software is your customer using? Make sure that billing to your customer includes all costs; make sure utilisation matches your billing, etc.

Process management - the right processes in place enable one to manage information regarding onboarding, provisioning and billing new customers.

Dealing with vendor audits - make sure that you have the right proof at hand to make sure that you are correctly licensed in the event of a vendor audit.

Lastly, Theodore Watson, Microsoft's Attorney for Legal and Corporate Affairs, spoke on the impact of data sovereignty laws under the Personal Information Act on the cloud business realm.

He opened on this important topic by explaining that the recent implementation of the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act has an impact on every aspect of everyday life, but it is this which is driving the privacy and security discussions for the cloud industry at the moment. Watson was at pains to state that POPI isn't about all data, it's only about personal information. However, just about any information which can identify a person can be classified as 'personal information'.

Watson highlighted that parties need to be responsible with the information they collect - for example, parties will need to give notice that they're collecting one's personal information as well as inform the person exactly what the collected information will be used for. Parties cannot simply forward or sell this information onto other parties without prior consent either. Ignorance or wilful misconduct is going to prove costly for those who do not comply with these new regulations, with punishments including jail time as well as stiff fines. Through the implementation of this Act, private individuals are increasingly being given the power to control the usage of the information which they choose to provide. The same principles apply to those dealing within hosting environments - the POPI Act is there to set the obligations to protect the data subject. This data subject passes his information onto the responsible party who then outsources some of its services to a hoster, who has contractual terms with the responsible party regarding security and usage.

Watson also advised that organisations need to appoint an information officer - preferably from an auditing/legal background as opposed to an IT background - to manage, implement, understand and control these information policies.

He additionally discussed the often misconstrued position around the transfer of data outside of the borders of South Africa. In this regard, he briefly analysed section 72 of POPI, which regulates how 'personal information' can be stored or processed outside of South Africa. The message is clear - follow Section 72 and you may lawfully store or process information outside South Africa. Watson recently addressed this issue in an article which he wrote for Microsoft and which can be located here.

Overall, the First Distribution MSP & Hosting Roadshow provided some valuable information and insights into some of the hot topics around this environment. Future such events will no doubt provide yet more of the same.

First Distribution

First Distribution was established in 1984 and has grown to be a broad-based, premium IT distribution company, providing enterprise-ready solutions for the southern African market. First Distribution is a value -added distributor of leading global brands, providing complex ICT solutions to the enterprise and SME markets, focused around the data centre, virtualisation, hosted applications and cloud-based services, database and middleware, security and network infrastructure - backed up by unparalleled expertise.

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First Distribution Tristan Penver
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