The Com World Series - organisers of Cloud Africa - caught up with speaker Richard Vester to understand a bit more about his experience, and what his thoughts are in the lead up to Cloud Africa (23-24 May, Sandton Sun Hotel, Jo'burg).
Richard has been in the ICT industry since 1997, and has been intimately involved in the service provider and communications industry across the board (sales, product development, operations and product marketing roles). He joined Vodacom Business Services as Executive Head of Hosted Service in 2007, and is now Executive Head. It can definitely be said that Richard has a detailed knowledge and understanding of Cloud Computing, and that he has developed one of the leading cloud businesses in Africa.
CWS: How would you describe existing ‘’cloud services’’ in Africa?
RV: Cloud Services in Africa can be broken down into a few different areas. Firstly lets look at private cloud, which is fairly mature in South Africa, but a lot less developed in the rest of Africa. We are seeing a lot more focus from global software vendors in extending their virtualization technologies into African markets. Several corporate companies have adopted at least virtualization in their own data centres. Most of the virtualization services are aimed at the infrastructure consolidation layer and not in the software space.
Public cloud is fairly immature in Africa. There are one or two players which have been able to build a true elastic cloud service, but this has traditionally been focused on the South Africa market with future African expansion the next logical step.
CWS: What would you say is the level of awareness about cloud in your country/region’s ICT market?
RV: There is a lot of awareness and talk in the market about cloud services. The challenge is not so much in awareness but more in the adoption. Many companies love the idea of cloud and they can confidently say that they need to adopt it in some form or fashion, however the starting point for moving to the cloud is the biggest challenge. Change seems to be the biggest stumbling block.
CWS: Which ‘type’ of cloud would be your choice – public or private?
RV: My first choice would actually be a hybrid approach specifically in the corporate / enterprise segment. The reason for this is that there are many companies that have adopted virtualization in their own data centres and are content not to move their information into the public cloud, yet the biggest challenge they have would be the need for rapid scale of infrastructure for growth. This could have a large capex burden on the company. The converse of that is many companies don’t wish to move all their confidential data into the public cloud, but wish to enjoy an opex based service with less capacity issues. The hybrid approach allows for companies to manage their own infrastructure and the public cloud infrastructure through a single pane of glass. When they need to scale quickly then leverage off the public cloud for rapid deployment and when you have greater timelines for internal projects, plan and implement your own private cloud.
Smaller companies without their own data centres should look to move to public cloud as the benefits are exponential.
CWS: How rapidly do you think the adoption of cloud will reducing capital and operational expenditure for enterprises in Africa?
RV: Adoption of cloud would see the immediate reduction in capital costs with a slightly smaller operational expenditure. There is a perception that cloud will replace the requirement for IT staff. Operational work will still be required, however the time to deploy and the tools available to make the IT department more efficient would result in more time to focus on other parts of the business.
CWS: What do you think is needed to drive improved and cheaper bandwidth in Africa for cloud?
RV: Bandwidth costs and availability will improve over the next few years. A lot of large Telco’s are on a drive to deliver fibre to the door. This will increase the capacity and force the market to drop its pricing for services. Other important factors are things such as the additional cable systems from Europe and Asia. The more capacity we can land in the country the more affordable it becomes. Satellite is also an important factor as infrastructure can be a problem throughout Africa.
CWS: Have you seen an increase in IT spend (in your business/country/region), and if yes, has it included investment in cloud?
RV: I have seen an increase in companies' spending money on cloud based services however, this has actually decreased the total revenue spend. Cloud services are proving to be a great vehicle for companies looking to increase service levels, increase productivity and decrease costs to service providers. All though service providers make less revenue on the service itself, they also save in space and utilities and therefore improve on their profit.
CWS: What do you think is preventing enterprises in Africa from implementing cloud?
RV: Knowledge, the ability to experience it and the correct exposure to case studies. So often companies want to get to know more about how cloud can benefit their business but unfortunately a lot of providers talk about cloud and don’t deliver on its promise. More providers need to invest in infrastructure through Africa to help companies on their journey to the cloud.
CWS: What do you think are the 3 key advantages gained by companies using cloud as part of their IT services?
RV: Improved productivity, cost reductions, the ability to scale up or down as their business requirements change.
CWS: Which key message do you want to highlight during your participation at Cloud Africa in Johannesburg later this year?
RV: The message that I would like to deliver is that cloud services are really there to benefit companies, whether in a private, public or hybrid state. It doesn’t matter what size your business is, there is always an advantage to you as an organisation to adopt cloud Infrastructure, software or security. Although the service delivery may be lacking across Africa for true cloud services, the capability is available and companies don’t have to always leverage off cloud in their own country it could be at the end of a rainbow.