2019 South Africa Cloud Conference

The South African cloud market continues to experience significant growth as both large enterprises and SMEs migrate their workloads to the cloud. Key infrastructure providers such as Microsoft and Teraco continue to invest significantly in cloud and data centre infrastructure respectively, to cater to the increasing demand for cloud services. Through the use of independent software vendors (ISVs), many local organisations have started establishing their cloud journeys to ensure a smooth transition to the cloud environment.

Key Highlights of the Conference

The 2019 Cloud Conference was held in Johannesburg on 6 June 2019. The event featured several cloud providers, including Huawei, Liquid Telecom, Microsoft, Oracle and VMware. Furthermore, data centre providers such as Teraco also featured, and highlighted their ongoing expansion projects and key milestones achieved to date.

Most service providers highlighted the different cloud journeys being developed by customers to ensure successful migration to the cloud. These cloud journeys vary from service provider to service provider. The overarching themes by most service providers include planning, migrating and modernising / extending the cloud environment. The overall objective is to establish the best migration strategy that minimises costs and optimises return on investment.

Key highlights at the conference included the upsurge, evidenced by the service providers, in the demand for cloud services in the country, particularly by SMEs and start-ups. Microsoft is currently experiencing significant interest in cloud services from start-ups that mostly utilise artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions.

However, skills shortage remains a key challenge, as it is negatively affecting the development of the cloud market. Hence, partnerships between service providers and ISVs have played a key role in addressing the skills gap.
Huawei is aggressively marketing its cloud offering, which includes Huawei Cloud, Huawei Cloud Stack Online and Huawei Cloud Stack.

Teraco’s data centre services have experienced significant growth due to the increased demand for cloud services. It is currently expanding its Isando campus to about 12 000m2 by Q3 2019, at a cost of R900 million.

Cloud Migration Journeys by Service Providers

The cloud migration journey involves three broad stages, namely: planning, migration and modernisation / extension. Various service providers recommend specific migration strategies to their customers.

The overarching objectives in establishing the cloud migration journey include:

  •  Identifying gaps between existing legacy architecture in the organisation and next-generation cloud architecture.
  • Mitigating risk by validating critical elements of the proposed architecture.
  • Identifying the architecture that minimises capital expenditure on IT infrastructure.
  • Establishing the best migration strategy, e.g., ‘forklift’ migration, which involves moving workloads in their existing state, or hybrid migration, which involves moving applications in batches to ensure a smooth transition. 
  • Implementing advanced monitoring and telemetry strategies to optimise the cloud platform.

Liquid Telecom’s migration strategy for its clients is segmented into three phases: planning, migrating and managing. These phases entail defining a company’s cloud journey before migrating and maximising value through the cloud platform.

Microsoft’s cloud migration strategy is segmented into assessment, migration and optimisation of the cloud platform. The objective of this strategy is to establish inclusiveness, involving various stakeholders within the organisation, to ensure a successful migration strategy.

IBM’s migration strategy involves enabling cloud-native, integration and modernisation of the cloud environment.

Other cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), have an extended cloud migration strategy that includes assessment, concept development, migration, cloud leveraging and optimisation. However, the underlying objective of identifying the best migration strategy remains the same.

Huawei’s Cloud Solutions

Currently, Huawei offers private cloud, hybrid cloud and public hyperscale cloud solutions. Its cloud services are categorised into three types, namely: Huawei Cloud, Huawei Cloud Stack Online (HCS Online) and Huawei Cloud Stack (HCS).

  • Huawei Cloud is a full-stack platform that includes IaaS, PaaS, Security, Database, Big Data, and Enterprise Intelligence (EI) services.
  • HCS Online is an extension of Huawei Cloud in customer data centres. This cloud type uses a similar architecture and provides the same cloud services as Huawei Cloud – IaaS, PaaS, Security and Database services. The only difference is that it is deployed in customers’ data centres and provides isolated resources to ensure security compliance.
  • HCS is Huawei’s full-stack hybrid cloud solution that includes IaaS, PaaS and Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offerings. In addition, it supports hybrid cloud architecture, including Huawei Cloud, AWS and Azure.

Despite these three cloud types having different features, they all share unified architecture, ecosystem and user experience. Huawei Cloud and Huawei Cloud Stack Online also share unified APIs, Cloud services and Operations & Maintenance services.

Huawei’s cloud portfolio offers an open application platform and provides powerful cloud infrastructure that supports AI services. Furthermore, its security solutions are aimed at controlling data access through data warehouse security. Data security is achieved through data and network channel encryption.

Microsoft’s Cloud Migration Considerations

Microsoft SA detailed some of the key points that organisations need to consider before migrating to the cloud, which include their existing budgets, industry legislation around data residency, service level agreements (SLAs) by various service providers and the existing skills set within their organisations.

Organisations need to extensively assess their current IT budgets to establish their affordability before they embark on their cloud journey. This will enable companies to create a cloud environment that best suits their needs and realise the highest return on investment.

The process of migrating to the cloud needs to be carefully managed to allow for a smooth transition and ensure all employees are familiar with the processes. ISVs have played a critical role in partnering with Microsoft to develop and deliver successful cloud migration strategies.

However, the upscaling of existing skills within organisations remains a key priority to ensure the modernisation and extension of the established cloud environment.

The ability to leverage existing infrastructure is a key consideration that could result in significant cost-saving during the cloud migration process. Organisations need to assess the degree of compatibility between existing hardware and software infrastructure, and the new cloud architecture.

Teraco’s Data Centre Projects

At the conference, Teraco announced the latest developments in the expansion of its Isando Campus to cater for the increased demand for cloud services. The current expansion of this campus (JB3 phase) is expected to increase total usable space by 4 000m2 to a total of 12 000m2 by Q3 2019. The total power available to the Isando campus will increase by 60MW and total 80MW.

Teraco believes public cloud infrastructure, meant to serve the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region, will be mostly located in SA. This is mainly due to the country being one of the largest economies on the continent and possessing adequate ICT infrastructure to support cloud development. Despite the current power generation challenges, Teraco believes SA remains best-positioned on the continent to accommodate data centres and provide the required power supplies for their optimal operation.

Other arguments for SA as the best location for public cloud infrastructure include:

  • Lower latency: The location of public cloud data centres in SA (as opposed to outside SSA) will reduce the latency levels and improve data transmission within the region.
  • Large addressable market: There is a growing addressable market for cloud services in SA and across the Southern African region. This will create a cloud market for locally-based cloud providers, making the country a regional hub of cloud services.
  • Stable political environment: Generally, SA enjoys a stable political and economic environment, which is critical to attracting foreign investment, including public cloud infrastructure providers. Hence, sustained political stability will result in the country being a favourable destination for cloud infrastructure.

Unisa’s Hybrid Cloud Services

UNISA currently leverages Microsoft Azure cloud services that utilise Teraco data centres. These cloud services are highly scalable and significantly improve the capabilities of the institution. As a result, the hybrid cloud services have improved the learning experiences of up to 350 000 students by reducing latency and improving connectivity speeds.

Currently, the key cloud services UNISA subscribes to include SaaS, Container-as-a-Service (CaaS), PaaS, IaaS, Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), Office 365 and Microsoft’s GitHub. UNISA also subscribes to site-to-site VPN services from Microsoft.

As a result of the cloud migration, UNISA has been able to migrate 355 GB structured data to the cloud.

In Summary

The three broad stages characterising the cloud migration journey are planning, migration and modernisation / extension.

Huawei, Microsoft and Teraco have increased their efforts in providing cloud and data centre services to the market, which is evident from the increased investments committed by these companies.

Service providers believe key considerations prior to cloud migration include the assessment of existing budgets to establish affordability, addressing scarce skills necessary for cloud management and extension, and leveraging existing infrastructure with the new cloud architecture to achieve cost savings.

Furthermore, service providers believe SA is well-positioned to host cloud and data centre infrastructure due to its energy generation capacity, good ICT infrastructure and a stable political environment.

Contact Derrick Chikanga for more information on cloud services or IT services.

2018 Microsoft Tech Summit Review

Cloud Key Take-Outs

The tipping point has arrived for cloud services in Africa. The barriers to adoption have been eroded and delivery models for IT have changed forever.

  1. Companies will adopt cloud services at a faster rate. Through the use of local data centres, barriers to cloud adoption such as data protection, reliability and latency are being addressed.
  2. Pivotal to the development of Microsoft’s cloud strategy is Microsoft’s commitment to the African continent. Microsoft has taken great strides in improving the quality of service for companies in South Africa and on the continent, by building two of their own data centres in SA and forging relationships with Internet Solutions, Liquid Telecom and Teraco.
  3. Any company – vendor or end-user – that does not have a commitment to the cloud will be left behind.

Demand for Cloud Services

A recent study, presented at the Microsoft Event, found that 93% of South African companies are developing a cloud strategy.

The major drivers of this trend are: (1) economic imperatives, (2) technological advancement and (3) societal changes.

On the societal side, key research findings by Microsoft include:

  • New generations have new expectations: +50% of the workforce will be millennials by 2020. They have new expectations in terms of how and where they want to work.
  • Employees increasingly want the flexibility to work from anywhere. It is estimated that +42% of the global workforce will be mobile by 2022.
  • Employees demand to be “untethered” by routine tasks and to be free to tap into their own creativity, as they believe it fuels success.
  • Cyberthreats are at an all-time high. 74% of businesses expect to be hacked in the next year, therefore security needs to be built into every touchpoint.

Driving Cloud Adoption

To drive cloud adoption in the region, Microsoft is establishing an Azure cloud region in South Africa to offer locally hosted cloud services to South African businesses. This entails providing technical skills and deploying infrastructure in co-located data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

In terms of global scale, Microsoft operates twice as many hyperscale cloud data centres than the combined count of its global competitors. South Africa, through Microsoft’s distributive data centre deployment model, will become part of this global network.

Africa Reach

Microsoft Azure’s hyperscale data centres (Johannesburg and Cape Town) are due to launch in 2018. With this launch, Microsoft will increase the number of globally announced Azure regions to 42.

The new SA data centre facilities will provide highly available, scalable and secure cloud services, with the option of data residency in SA, to companies operating across the African continent. The cloud services include Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365.

This is a strategic development that will boost cloud adoption. Currently many companies in Africa rely on cloud services delivered from outside the continent – either via locations from within the European Union or elsewhere.

About the Event

Microsoft held its second South African Tech Summit in Cape Town on 13 and 14 February. Approximately 3 000 people – ranging from end users of Microsoft products to developers and partners – attended the event. The summit included an exhibition floor “the Hub”, multiple breakout rooms and labs, and keynote speeches presented by prominent Microsoft executives.

  • Microsoft speakers outlined the company’s vision for Microsoft 365 and Azure.
  • Partners showcased their latest offerings in the Microsoft enterprise and cloud-based services space. Partners included: Axiz, Britehouse, Checkpoint, Citrix, EOH, Liquid Telecom, StorTech and Veeam.

Look out for more information on the event in the coming weeks.

2018 Bosch Connected World

It has become increasingly obvious that in practice, the Internet of Things (IoT) can be simplified into three generic applications – location tracking, event monitoring and condition monitoring. The rest is about applications to get data into the system, and to respond appropriately and securely to changes. What is less clear is telcos’ role in the emerging IoT ecosystem.

This was highlighted at Bosch Connected World 2018, a two-day conference and invited exhibition in Berlin, which attracted 4 000 visitors, ten times more than at the maiden event in 2014.

Bosch: A Prime Enabler

As one of the world’s leading makers of electrical and electronic components and finished goods, Bosch is both a consumer and a producer of IoT artefacts. It has some 270 factories, making the firm its own best guinea pig for Industry 4.0 factory automation experiments – a prime enabler and a leading source of knowledge about what works and what does not.

According to Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner, every product the company ships will be capable of connecting to a network by 2020. Some 60% of its products now support Internet Protocol (IP), up from 10% last year. In 2018, it will ship some 38 million IP-enabled products (up from 27 million last year) which includes finished goods.

Mikey, a voice-operated Bosch home automation platform, similar to Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, will allow home owners to interact with their kitchen appliances. Mikey can check the refrigerator’s inventory, recommend suitable recipes based on the content, and pre-heat the oven for just-in-time cooking.

Co-Developing Products

Bosch will be co-developing products with customers which could result in components such as sensors and lightweight combined electric gearbox-axles integrated into products. Planned for launch in the early 2020s is Daimler’s new S Class Mercedes Benz which will be enabled to park itself (after automatically finding a suitable spot in the parking garage), as well as their new robot taxi. The Deutsche Post – DHL electric self-driving mail wagon is closer to launch and will free postal delivery staff from having to carry the 115kg payload.

A constant refrain from every speaker at the conference was that a concerted effort will be required for the IoT to be a success. Like many large firms, Bosch bought its way into the IoT by acquiring smaller firms, and now partners with and supports a host of nimble software-based start-ups to develop and deliver solutions. This partnership model is the only viable way of dealing economically with the complexity of tracking assets, watching them, and getting them to respond appropriately.

Connectivity

Clearly, nothing will happen without connectivity, so networking is the central, crucial, enabling infrastructure for the IoT. But Bosch’s strategic pillars are sensors, software and services. Bandwidth is a commodity to be bought from the lowest priced supplier who can deliver the speed and resilience required by the application.

Bosch believes most machine-to-machine communications will be local and limited to the machine, production line, home or factory automation system of which it is a part. Relatively little data needs to break out into the Internet or the public network.  For example, most on-board electronics will aim to keep passengers, cargo and vehicles safe in transit. Low latency is a non-negotiable. At the outset, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (street) communications are likely to use Lidar rather than 5G. And edge computing (with edge data centres) will reduce the amount of traffic transmitted over the access and core networks.

There are some emerging applications that require massive connectivity and bandwidth for which telcos may be uniquely suited. One such example is a city or regional Intelligent Integrated Intermodal Transport System. Passenger and goods needs are sensed, data is fed into a centralised processing systems that control the allocation of vehicles, timing of journeys and information is communicated back to the users. Notwithstanding, advances in decentralised computing and artificial intelligence-based self-organising systems may limit core network traffic.

Telco Opportunity

Inevitably, industry standards for applications and vertical markets will precipitate out of the present alphabet soup of initiatives. This presents an opportunity for the telcos to play at the scale to which they are accustomed.

Nevertheless, customers are looking for someone to take responsibility for connectivity in every IoT-based system. Telcos can reorganise to service the granularity required for individual systems, or partner with firms that are prepared to get their hands dirty assembling and managing the (mostly) customised applications. Offering customers that “one throat to choke” may be risky, but it might also be telcos’ best chance of becoming essential members of the emerging IoT ecosystems.

A sensor-laden mock-up of a self-driving car Bosch is working on, on show at Bosch Connected World 2018 in Berlin.

A sensor-laden mock-up of a self-driving car Bosch is working on, on show at Bosch Connected World 2018 in Berlin.