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Cloud ‘land grab’ to descend on SA this year

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Cloud computing will accelerate the continent’s digital transformation.
Cloud computing will accelerate the continent’s digital transformation.

Rivals Microsoft, Oracle and Huawei are readying for cloud battles in 2020.

ITWeb interviewed the companies about their plans to drive cloud computing solutions in SA this year.

Last year saw US-based software giant Microsoft open two data centre regions in SA, becoming the first global provider to deliver cloud services from data centres on the African continent.

In March last year, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei also started offering its cloud services in SA. The company is leasing a data centre in Johannesburg from a partner from where it is deploying localised public cloud services based on local industry policies, customer requirements and partner conditions.

US-based enterprise software company Oracle in September last year also announced plans to launch data centres in SA.

Similarly, fellow US-based company Amazon Web Services is expected to open data centres in SA this year.

Increased appetite

Johannes Kanis, cloud and enterprise business group lead at Microsoft SA, says over the last 10 months, the extent of the appetite for cloud in SA has meant the company has one of the fastest-growing Microsoft data centre regions globally.

He points out that significant organisations, like Nedbank, Standard Bank and Altron, have already migrated components of their IT infrastructure into the cloud.

In October 2019, the State IT Agency and Microsoft SA announced details of a memorandum of understanding that paves the way for government adoption of public cloud services, which drives government's ability to accelerate its digital transformation journey, Kanis notes.

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“We anticipate that the need for and interest in cloud-based services will drive more innovation from customers and partners, and will continue to spur the continent’s digital transformation.”

According to Kanis, Gartner research from last year indicates SA is expected to be the fourth fastest-growing major IT market in the world, and this strong performance is largely driven by companies embracing cloud.

On competition in the local cloud market, Kanis comments: “We compete with hyperscaler providers all over the world and are proud to be the first global provider to launch two cloud data centres on the continent. Our goal was to bring the technology closer to African businesses and organisations, offer enterprise-grade reliability and performance combined with data residency in South Africa.”

Endless opportunities

For Niral Patel, MD of Oracle SA, the opportunities cloud creates are real and present today, providing the building blocks for companies to pioneer ground-breaking innovations and disrupt entire industries.

“We’re seeing financial services use AI [artificial intelligence] for automatic forecasting without human intervention, to smart manufacturing utilising real-time IOT [Internet of things] data for equipment optimisations.

“The opportunities are endless, not only for our business, but for our partners and customers. The pending data centre that will reach our shores this year will enable our customers to address cost-efficiencies, providing the ability to innovate quickly, creating large-scale agility while benefiting from the utmost levels of security.

Niral Patel, MD of Oracle SA.
Niral Patel, MD of Oracle SA.

“Unlike other cloud providers, Oracle is committed to offer a second region for disaster recovery in every country where we launch Oracle Cloud Infrastructure services, a strategy that’s aligned with our customers’ needs. With these dual regions, customers can deploy both production and disaster recovery capacity within the country, to meet business continuity and compliance requirements,” says Patel.

He adds that while competitors were building their data centres, Oracle was building its cloud applications from the ground up.

“We partner with customers to tackle their most complex business problems, run their operations, and achieve the best possible outcomes. Customers are fast embracing and upgrading to Autonomous Database, a self-driving software that uses machine learning to enable unprecedented availability, high performance and security at a much lower cost. By using machine learning, the self-driving self-healing self-learning database is being used by customers in the cloud to see new ways of getting more value from more secure data more quickly.”

Growth takes off

Rui Houwei, president of Huawei Cloud Africa, notes that over the past 10 months, Huawei Cloud has experienced rapid growth in the African market, notably in SA, and already has more than 300 customers.

Likewise, he says, government agencies, telecom carriers and enterprises from a wide range of industries have made use of Huawei Cloud services to enjoy previously unforeseen levels of success in the market.

“Last year, Huawei also launched its Partner Programme 2.0, an initiative that offers crucial support for partners, with regard to online and onsite training, market expansion, marketing activities and technical understanding.

Rui Houwei, president of Huawei Cloud Africa.
Rui Houwei, president of Huawei Cloud Africa.

“In SA alone, Huawei Cloud has established partnerships with over 50 partners, spanning diverse industries, including telecoms, finance, manufacturing, education, retail and logistics, as well as the public sector. Such wide-ranging collaboration is likely to result in unique and broadly-shared benefits across the ecosystem,” says Houwei.

Jon Tullett, senior research manager for cloud/IT services at IDC, believes there will be a cloud “land grab” just as with fibre providers in SA.

However, he notes adoption of cloud computing may be slower than expected, as moving workloads to the cloud can take a long time.

The other challenge SA will face regarding cloud adoption this year will be the skills shortage, says Tullett. “Cloud computing skills are in short supply and they are very expensive.”

Nonetheless, he notes there is increased interest and confidence in the cloud among South African organisations, including government.

As an example, he said the South African Reserve Bank issued a directive in 2018 and guidance notes on cloud computing and the offshoring of data by banks. The directive is applicable to all banks, controlling companies, branches of foreign institutions and auditors of banks or controlling companies. The directive was effective from 1 October 2018.

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