MAPIT leverages Huawei Cloud to support African expansion, innovation

Johannesburg, 12 Oct 2021
Read time 4min 20sec
MAPIT CTO, Lee Annamalai.
MAPIT CTO, Lee Annamalai.

MAPIT, a South African mapping and geospatial intelligence specialist, has harnessed the Huawei Cloud to support its growth into East Africa and underpin its emerging innovations.

The company, which has supplied detailed location data to a growing customer base for nearly 20 years, reports that demand is growing for its enterprise location solutions across various sectors. Where static maps and vehicle telematics services were once a business mainstay, the company is now seeing growing demand for real-time location-based information to support contact centres, marketing and analytics.

MAPIT CTO Lee Annamalai says the changing environment informed the company’s decision to move to the cloud.

“There were a number of reasons for us to consider cloud,” he says. “One reason is that we work with massive volumes of data, and as we increasingly merge it with other datasets and analyse it to achieve valuable new insights, the cost of the necessary on-premises infrastructure becomes prohibitive. In addition, there have been significant hardware shortages since the start of the pandemic, so accessing the necessary processing servers could have taken months.”

Another consideration was that customer organisations are fast moving to the cloud too, he says. “Over the past four or five years, we’ve seen a number of our customers migrating from self-hosted infrastructure into the cloud, and the CTOs we engage with daily see the cloud as a priority. It is starting to become the norm in South Africa, and set to leapfrog Africa into a new era, so it is very important for us to be responsive to that change.”

MAPIT had certain reservations about the move to cloud, however. A key one was cost. Annamalai says: “This is a challenge facing many South African organisations on their journey to cloud: they want transparency in billing. When you are provisioning in the cloud, you can very easily end up with a runaway bill. Another challenge is the more you use managed services, the more you have to become a cloud architect, so you need to train up your developers to manage cloud architecture. Important for us, as we are preparing to roll out to East Africa, is the question of latency. You need locally hosted services and you must understand how you will be able to scale and extend across borders.”

After exploring the services available, MAPIT elected to move to the Huawei Cloud this year, to support its strategy. Annamalai says: “I personally was a bit apprehensive about the costs that would be associated with our need for big data storage and large numbers of compute cycles. But it turns out that the cost of hosting and managing it is very competitive.”

MAPIT opted to put its own software down in the Huawei Cloud, and spins up additional capacity for analytics projects as needed. “We have been very impressed,” he says. “A major competitive advantage we have is specialised very high-speed processing; and in the case of telematics companies that involves real-time data on hundreds of thousands of vehicles. On the Huawei Cloud, we achieved unexpected performance improvements, with millisecond latencies. Our customers are noticing the improvement, which gives us a competitive advantage. The Huawei infrastructure facilitates the big volume data processing capabilities we need, right down to SSD hard drives, which make a huge difference to the speed of processing.”

Many MAPIT customers – including telematics firms, security and financial services call centres – previously hosted the map data themselves and received updates periodically. However, MAPIT now hosts it all and supplies it to customers via APIs. This gives customers access to the latest data and removes complexity in managing the data.

Huawei Cloud’s local infrastructure and support is also enabling MAPIT to extend into Africa. “We are growing the business into East Africa, and we want to push the envelope with advanced computing across the continent, so having infrastructure locally makes sense. We are now working with the Huawei Cloud team to understand latencies between South Africa and East Africa. The responsiveness and levels of service we have received from the Huawei Cloud team have been incredible, which is quite a refreshing thing.”

Sanjay Gunpath, Senior Business Development Manager, Huawei Cloud (Southern Africa), says: “A key differentiator on Huawei Cloud is the presence of a dedicated locally based team to support our customer requirements from a technical and commercial perspective. The Huawei team has a vested interest in our customers’ success and we remain engaged with the customer from inception of the concept, all the way to deployment of the solution and our customers only start paying for the service once value is being realised.”

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