CIO Zone

Is IaaS on the way out?

Read time 9min 00sec
Thomas Lee, Wingu.
Thomas Lee, Wingu.

Is the business world done with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)? According to local experts, the answer is no. Or at least, not yet.

"I would even go so far as to say that cloud is one of the most significant developments in the history of IT, and IaaS is one of its key enablers," says Xavier Nel, head of product for CloudGate and CloudWare. As technology continues to advance, it is going to become easier and increasingly cost-effective to migrate, and businesses will find themselves disadvantaged by not making the move.

Jonathan Kropf, CEO at Velocity Group, believes that IaaS remains popular because it is familiar, comfortable and provides a simple way of moving workloads. And let's not forget the financial benefits as modern businesses constantly search for ways to do more at a lower cost, which makes the hardware infrastructure savings a big bonus. Kropf clarifies that South African organisations still lag slightly behind their European and US counterparts when it comes to adoption, which he attributes to a lack of largescale datacentres in our market. He expects this to be remedied by the introduction of AWS and Azure datacentres in the not too distant future. In the meantime, he believes IaaS will grow substantially in South Africa in years to come, especially because there are still applications being created today that are not cloud-ready. "IaaS is a bridging technology that still allows customers to virtualise older-style applications."

Almost all businesses and large organisations today are operating significant on-premises estates of hardware, software, middleware, networks and more, adds Niral Patel, MD and technology leader for Oracle SA. So while they are looking to move to the cloud as quickly and securely as possible, the fact is that it's going to take a while to get to where they want to be. Until then, they'll create and refine a blended model combining on-premises, public and private cloud.

And this is an important point - the work of cloud is hybrid.

You can't look at cloud unilaterally, says Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, Sub-Saharan Africa. Sure, there are evident challenges on the IaaS side due to the lack of skills to manage infrastructure, as well as concerns related to IaaS costs. But this doesn't mean that any particular cloud model is on the way out. It just means that there are new approaches that businesses can use to tailor services to meet their unique needs.

I would even go so far to say that cloud is one of the most significant developments in the history of IT, and IaaS is one of its key enablers.

Xavier Nel, CloudGate, CloudWare

Patel advises that cloud infrastructure providers target their services to meet the needs of our hybrid reality or run the risk of being left behind. They must comprehend the full spectrum of IT deployment scenarios, going beyond just multi-tenant public cloud services. Businesses running at scale in the cloud will need services for their native cloud apps, along with deployment services for workloads that will always run in their corporate datacentres, with meaningful integration and connectivity between those environments. As the market matures, we're seeing a significant number of vendors adopting what Nicolas Blank, Group CEO at NBConsult, describes as a `long-term hybrid' model. They're realising that not all customers are moving everything to cloud, but rather only the workloads that make sense, while also maintaining an on-premises investment, he notes.

Three burning questions about cloud answered

Do you think businesses are becoming more cloud-savvy?

The concept of cloud has fundamentally shifted from a buzzword to an essential business tool, says Niral Patel, MD and technology leader for Oracle SA. In South Africa, cloud is no longer just a possibility; it is the fundamental tool igniting innovation and disruption across industry, sector and enterprise. According to Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, Sub-Saharan Africa, as more and more businesses realise that their infrastructure needs to rise to a new level of agility and scalability, and that it must be able to seamlessly integrate with and support business applications and new operational technologies, they're looking to cloud to do so. Many of the initial fears around cloud have been put aside as cloud options have matured, and as first adopters are demonstrating and showcasing its success, the demand for cloud computing solutions has increased substantially.

As with any new technology, though, there is always hesitation and fear. But as the cloud has evolved, companies are realising the cost and efficiency benefits are too good to pass up on, says Grant Bennett, country manager for SUSE South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. While the cloud once required a fairly complicated change in business process, it is now easily deployable and highly available for business-critical applications and systems and more and more businesses are understanding this.

I've grown up tinkering with server hardware and flashing lights, I doubt my children will ever know what a rack of servers looks like.

Oliver Potgieter, Alto Africa

For David Coleman, chief data officer at Experian SA, as data becomes the key to helping modern organisations maintain their competitive edge, business leaders are realising that it is simply getting too costly to maintain datacentres with traditional on-premises infrastructure. As a result, customers are starting to understand the dynamics of datacentre costing a lot better, adds Thomas Lee, CEO of Wingu: "We often used to run into issues where customers did not understand costing properly. They would complain because quotes for a cloud server were high, but they were just looking at the cost of the server. They weren't factoring in that they were paying for cooling, UPS, power, floor space, fire suppression, networking, security, internet connectivity and so much more."

What does the local cloud space look like?

The `Cloud Africa 2018 report' revealed that there has been a strong increase in cloud spending among South African businesses, with 74% realising the value of cloud if they want to perform in an agile market. And a study from the IDC revealed that 90% of South African companies are either in the implementation or implementation-planning phase of their cloud journey.

But there are customers adopting a `wait and see' approach when it comes to getting rid of their datacentres in favour of observing the adoption of cloud services by the rest of the market, says Nicolas Blank, Group CEO at NBConsult. "While customers are not switching off their datecentres in droves, we are seeing them adopting cloud services where it makes both economic and practical sense."

Thomas Lee, CEO of Wingu, discusses some of the changes when it comes to cloud costing. One local model that is losing traction is long-term contracts with high setup costs and additional fees. Customers demand pay-as-you-go, on-demand billing, he says. Similarly, things can get complicated when rates are fixed based on the local currency. While some providers offer their services in rands, they're tied to the dollar behind the scenes so they ultimately still fluctuate when the exchange rate goes up or down.

Where do you think the cloud industry is headed?

For CIOs, it is no longer a question about whether or not they should be moving to the cloud, but, rather, how quickly they can get there, says Xavier Nel, head of product for CloudGate and CloudWare.

With artificial intelligence (AI) in the mix and the Internet of Things (IoT) ensuring that everything is connected, cloud is about to become the centre of everything, says Henk Olivier, MD of Ozone Information Technology Solutions. The more data we add, the more processing and analytics can happen to improve AI and leverage these innovations to improve every aspect of our lives. Data and data analytics are going to be the most valuable assets of the future, which is why we'll see massive investments in cloud infrastructure by IT service providers in the next decade or so.

In the not too distant future, we will also see customers effectively adopting server-less computing, says Lee. Dropbox is an example of server-less computing since users don't need to create a virtual server in order to store files. They simply consume the service, which totally removes complexity from the equation. Server-less is being driven by trends such as the IoT, where we have a lightweight device connected to services. When IaaS support does slow, PaaS and server-less computing will become the norm, he continues. For Jonathan Kropf, CEO at Velocity Group, a server-less approach becomes a compelling proposition for any organisation that needs to scale up and down rapidly.

Alto Africa CTO, Oliver Potgieter, agrees. In South Africa, we're still in a space where cloud is seen either as a datacentre extension, disaster recovery strategy or a solution to run traditional 'server' workloads. It won't be long before built for cloud apps that follow a true serverless model become the norm and cloud provisioning will be the de-facto standard model for deployment of all apps and services. The reality is that markets change and businesses must keep apace with these changes. "I've grown up tinkering with server hardware and flashing lights," says Potgieter. "I doubt my children will ever know what a rack of servers looks like."

Unpacking IaaS drawbacks

So we've established that IaaS will still be making an impact for a few years to come, but what are its disadvantages?

According to David Coleman, from Experian SA, and Henk Olivier, of Ozone Information Technology Solutions, the following should be considered:

  • The customer is responsible for backups and managing the operating system;
  • Users monitor usage and are required to understand complex billing;
  • Lack of transparency of the hosted infrastructure configuration;
  • Resilience of workload availability can vary by supplier;
  • Customers don't have control of the geographical location of the infrastructure, and
  • For businesses with high demand on data processing, the cost is higher than for businesses with low processing and higher storage demands.

This article was first published in the November 2018 edition of ITWeb Brainstorm magazine. To read more, go to the Brainstorm website.

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