Azure data centre brings new possibilities to SA

According to BUI's Willem Malan, the opening of Azure data centres in South Africa will alleviate concerns around data sovereignty and latency.

Johannesburg, 13 Nov 2018
Thys Janse van Rensburg, GM, BUI.
Thys Janse van Rensburg, GM, BUI.

When doing a presentation, Thys Janse van Rensburg, BUI's GM, avoids using statistics, especially when talking about the cloud space. He does so because what we know today is totally different to what we know tomorrow.

One stat his colleague and a director at BUI, Willem Malan, did relay was around the number of big businesses currently using cloud. According to Malan, research from World Wide Worx found around 90% of South African corporates are already using cloud in some shape or form today.

Malan shared this figure during BUI's Intelligent Cloud Security Conference, in Cape Town, at the end of October. While he admitted this number does sound rather high, when one drills deeper into what is considered cloud, simple things like Gmail and Dropbox, it isn't all that surprising. "The main take-away from this statistic is that cloud isn't coming, it is very much here. Ultimately, it is an unavoidable reality of business today."

The same study revealed that South African corporates view scalability and efficiency as the key benefits of using cloud. A lot of the customers we work with have this idea that cloud will save them lots of money. It has the potential to do that, but the real benefits are actually more to do with greater agility and flexibility.

Hyperscale cloud in SA

The Microsoft data centres are coming before the end of the year. For local businesses, this development takes two commonly held cloud objection points right off the table. The first is around data sovereignty. With the new data centres in SA, customers will know that all of their data can fully reside in local facilities. This offers them all the benefits, from availability and scalability to redundancy, without ever having to move their data out of the country. The other concern was around latency. "Gone are the days when we had to traverse the ocean, head up the west coast to Ireland to get the benefits of cloud. It'll be available on our doorstep."

When talking about the Azure data centre and what it means, he relayed an experience he had during the 2010 Soccer World Cup. There was all of this advertising and hype around the big sporting event and one of the main vibes was: "Feel it, it is here", different versions of which were often thrown around by people during the course of the tournament. It was around the same time that the Gautrain officially opened. Malan explained that during his first trip on the train, as they were pulling into their final stop at OR Tambo Airport, the conductor jokingly announced over the intercom: "Can you feel it? It is here."

"For us, the opening of the MS data centre is a lot like that. There's been a lot of hype and excitement and now we can say that it's here," he said. The local industry is going through this adoption phase around cloud, with so many uncertainties and questions around what they should and shouldn't be doing. If you zoom out for a minute and view these conversations 12 or 18 months into the future, what you'll find is that it's all just business as usual. Today, it's not just around the underlying technologies and the plumbing; our cloud conversations are about how to help customers from an IT perspective, enabling them to make the most of cloud without having to worry about buzzwords or hype.

Unpacking what differentiates "hyperscale cloud" from regular cloud, Malan explained it's all about having the infrastructure needed to build a robust and scalable cloud, with the ability to efficiently scale from a few servers to thousands of servers. He described the hyperscale cloud as a fourth industrial revolution enabler, making the possibilities of technology advancements like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of things (IOT) a reality.