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Cloud Considerations for 2017… and beyond!

There are many articles and reports regarding cloud trends that many so called “experts” have been, for lack of a better word, regurgitating for the South African market when it comes to cloud strategy and cloud adoption. However, most of these ideas are derived from areas of the world that have significantly different economic, political and infrastructural landscapes (e.g. the U.S. and/or Europe) and are used by local companies that are trying to protect their bottom line. If you are a CIO or CTO without a clear cloud strategy and it’s impact on your business, I think it’s time to head out to pasture and stop reading this now (as you are probably looking at license renewals for your VMware cluster)…. If not, I have attempted to isolate the most significant high-level topics applicable to the local landscape that we should be taking into consideration when looking at adopting cloud, these include:

  1. Private-Cloud is a Huge Effort: CIO’s that made the decision to build on-site private-clouds or hosted private-clouds with the so-called “guidance” of their local service provider will most likely be looking to switch to public cloud when they realise how much effort, cost and energy it takes to manage these platforms. This is due to the fact that they are getting their advice from vendors and partners still stuck in the traditional way of serving out IT solutions and see this as a way of client lock-in and retaining current revenue streams and jobs by moving you to inflexible solutions. Data sovereignty, security and compliance shortfalls of public cloud offerings are also leveraged as a scare tactic in this space. The fact remains that on-site infrastructure has a large initial capital layout that requires significant effort and expensive/scarce resources to manage, once you have moved you realise that you are only reaping very few benefits of cloud economics.
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  3. Lift-and-Shift Tools are Accelerating Cloud Adoption: The efficiency and simplicity of on-site infrastructure to cloud analysis and lift-and-shift tools are increasing, and the cost of these tools are decreasing (or zero under certain circumstances), making the adoption of cloud less daunting and a simpler exercise for most enterprises. If your trusted cloud advisers are telling you that the cost of relocation to cloud will outweigh the benefits… get a second opinion!
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  5. Moving to Cloud Will Significantly Save You Money: We have time and time again seen the cost and effort benefits of relocating applications to the cloud, saving our customers as much as 10% to 15% for IaaS and then an additional 15% to 20% savings when optimising their workloads to take advantage of PaaS and SaaS solutions. This is due to the fact that when moving your applications to these platforms you are removing the large administration overheads like networking, OS patching, maintenance, licensing (and license tracking), monitoring, etc. allowing your developers to do what they do best, to code! The applications are also on a platform that will allow you to auto-scale (up and down) infinitely as you need, removing the need to have expensive and underutilise on-site equipment or equipment dedicated to you by a provider.
  6. The In-country Hyperscale Cloud Hype: In the good ol’ days… like… yesterday, we would use systems to extract, transform and load (ETL) data into expensive giant data warehouse systems with various BI solutions ready for the run. About once a year, there would have been a mammoth effort to restore the data into a location where the data could be analysed for predicting business trends. A major issues with this strategy (apart from the systems lying idle for most of the year) was that the databases and platforms simply can’t handle multiple, continuous streams of data. I have listened to many of our customers telling us that they will wait for the big hyperscale cloud providers (e.g. announced in mid-2018) to launch their datacentres in SA and then leverage their IaaS offerings. Guys, the magic is not in the IaaS offerings, it’s in the PaaS and SaaS components of cloud; this is where CIO’s and CTO’s need to focus their long-term attention… but you will not have these capabilities locally in the foreseeable future, you will need to move your data to international locations to consume them! Only the international datacenters offer highly scalable Big Data platforms that allow business to “rent” compute power as and when you need it, allowing you to make better decisions that reduce costs and increase marketing and sales effectiveness.
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  8. Pay-as-you-Go: There are very few South African cloud providers that offer you a true Pay-as-you-Go (PAYG) option. The local vendors, the ones that I have dealt with anyway, all offer you monthly billing for used resources (whether they are on or off) or they offer you a monthly subscription to a set of resources that you get billed for whether you use them or not. This is an extremely inefficient way of consuming cloud. The hyperscale cloud providers offer you per-minute or per-second billing that are ideal for Dev or Test environment, or environment that are used infrequently.
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  10. Big IT Vendors Simply not Ready: Many of the big traditional South African IT vendors are simply not ready to offer you a hyperscale cloud solution. This is due to the fact that not consuming IT in the traditional way will disrupt their bottom line. Remember, you are paying for your vendors’ technical skills, operational staff, HR department, building rental, middle-management, executives and their bonuses, etc. Their margins are smaller if they offer you cloud. I’ll even bet that they don’t have the skills for a hyperscale cloud solution. Don’t believe me? ask your IT vendor what auto-scale cloud-based Big Data, AI or IoT projects they are they’re working on and ask them to give you a demonstration of their skills.
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There is a lot of misinformation regarding cloud adoption in the South African market and it’s a challenge to find a partner who truly understands the landscape. My advice, lookout for a Born-in-the-Cloud partner who is not protecting traditional out-of-touch revenue streams!

Christian Hagner
Head of Cloud Services – Siatik

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