South African businesses can no longer ignore Cloud adoption in the face of two other pressing IT trends: big data and the Internet of Things (IoT).
A great driving force behind the change in the Chief Information Officer (CIO)’s role comes from the need to deal with the challenge of digital migration. Until recently South African businesses were considered slow starters in the move toward the Cloud, but now there is increased pressure on CIOs to embrace and lead this digital migration.
Slow but growing
Driven initially by virtualisation technology and the desire to achieve better economies of scale from existing hardware, the focus has since shifted towards improving business benefits for core services. This is no longer limited to Business Continuity Management (BCM) or Disaster Recovery (DR). Choosing between the different types of Cloud deployments is important when considering the application to be migrated. These deployments may be hosted, private Cloud, public Cloud or a mix of both being the hybrid Cloud model. While Cloud adoption is undoubtedly on the rise in South Africa with Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) leading the way. At an enterprise level, however, there is still some hesitation and South Africa is still two to three years behind the global curve. This is primarily due to the fact that the mid-tier to large enterprise business still has investment that they need to protect and essentially utilise or sweat before considering the migration to the Cloud.
This means that South African enterprises are not yet ready to adopt Cloud services to such an extent where they can de-invest in operational services and divert those resources towards innovation and agility. Quite frankly, this cannot happen in South Africa until there has been a mind-set change at an enterprise level. This may only occur once large enterprises are faced with the tough decision to move to the Cloud that may be facilitated by increased financial pressures. This may very well be a reality that is fast approaching given the current global financial pressures that are being experienced.
Just as we stopped worrying about the barriers of availability and security when the issue of migrating services to the Cloud first arose, addressing enterprise challenges and facilitating the process of Cloud adoption will allow these enterprise Cloud adopters to experience the benefits for themselves and catch up with the advancements in the technology globally.
Keep the momentum going
The fact that South Africa is a few years behind the global trend is not always a disadvantage as we can look to other markets for lessons learnt on Cloud implementations and apply these to a local setting. Technology availability and technology adoption are two important components to consider. While the technology may be available, the need and thus adoption may be entirely different. Simply because technology is available, it may not be feasible or even required amongst users.
Adopting technology later than others is not always a bad thing. In the case of Cloud computing and hosted solutions, it is certainly a matter of feasibility, which must be top of mind for all organisations.
When looking at the United States and Europe we can see that while smaller organisations are quicker to adopt Cloud, enterprise customers simply required a phased approach to a hosted environment, in order to make the transition easier.
By starting small, enterprises can start with moving specific services (like e-mail, back-up and recovery, etc.) or groups of users into a hosted setup. Start where the risk is smaller with non-critical business services or users to minimise startup risks.
Where the move to a hosted solution proves to be successful, the benefits can be felt immediately. By undertaking the journey in a phased approach, organisations can build up momentum and as the benefits become tangible, more progress can be made at a faster rate.
Stay on point
Resistance to Cloud adoption has been voiced as a looming threat in the form of job losses. There are many IT professionals that are afraid that their jobs will be made redundant if everything is moved to an off-site Cloud or hosted environment, but it is here that another mind-set change needs to take place. IT professionals need to stop thinking of themselves as useful only to keep the server lights on and the e-mail server running; their role in an enterprise needs to shift from troubleshooting towards innovation. No longer does IT have the headache of administering software and maintaining technologies, which means that they are now able to focus finally on becoming a profit centre, instead of a cost centre within the organisation.
This change in mind set will become necessary sooner rather than later, because enterprise customers are the focal point for Fibre to the Home and Office projects, which means that Cloud availability will no longer be a barrier to postpone Cloud adoption.
Adoption is unavoidable
The timing is ripe for this change as the local hosted and Cloud market is growing considerably. With commodity services like virtual machines and productivity suites, we have seen prices come down and noticed more differentiation in specialist services in the marketplace.
E-mail hosting, storage and backup, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), office productivity suites, payroll and accounting suites as well as Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) are hosted and these services have proven popular in the local market. Where there are major privacy concerns, hybrid cloud models have eased the migration in allowing customers to sweat their existing assets while moving parts of their business to the Cloud. However, this process has served to highlight a critical need for integration skills. Without this integration know-how, the hybrid model can often complicate matters unnecessarily and deter customers from hosted and Cloud models completely.
It would be unfortunate if this was the case and customers were deterred from fully embracing the hosted solutions, as big things are coming. There is already much conversation around the move toward big data and solutions that enable the IoT (Internet of Things) or the IoE (Internet of Everything).
The need for hosted and Cloud solutions in South Africa will simply become more pressing, as Cloud is the underlying architecture necessary to enable more devices to connect to the Internet. What will happen to those organisations that do not embrace Cloud computing in time for the intersection of big data and the IoT? Take a moment to consider the possibility that they may be irrelevant, as Cloud adoption can no longer be avoided. It is a matter of evolution. Adapt, or? Well, I leave you with that thought.
Sadiq Munshi is the Manager: Product Development for Cloud Solutions at Jasco Enterprise.