There is a level of apprehension when it comes to the adoption of cloud services in Africa and publicised data leak issues like the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) Prism programme have not helped. However, the situation calls for perspective say experts and cloud computing simply has to go through the natural progression of adoption as defined by Gartner’s maturity cycle.
Albie Bester, GM at Pamoja, the cloud business unit of Pan-African ICT enabler SEACOM and a wholesale provider of cloud services, refers to Gartner’s hype cycle and specifically the point raised that cloud computing is now in the “Trough of Disillusionment” or a situation when interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver.
However, he is quick to point out that the technology still has to enter and pass through other significant stages of development, in line with this cycle, including the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ and ‘Plateau of Productivity’, that will happen in the next two-to-five years and will be characterised by broader market applicability and relevance.
But where is cloud computing making the most impact? For public cloud services the target market is primarily small to medium enterprises.
Pamoja is witness to an increase in cloud adoption at the bottom end of the market where these organisations trust their IT suppliers to make their technology decisions for them. Where the IT provider is leading with a cloud service it will be accepted by the customer in most instances.
Medium to large organisations have their own IT departments who make decisions on the best technology route for the company and will, in most cases, push on-premise solutions.
In Africa the biggest challenge still remains reliable and affordable connectivity. If an organisation cannot connect to its business services then all business processes dependent on that service will suffer and possibly halt. The Africa continent is connected to the rest of the world by an abundance of submarine links and it is in the last mile of connectivity where the bottle neck lays.
“Traditionally Africa lags the rest of the world in the adoption of new technology. In the case of cloud computing it is not much different, but we expect Africa to catch up much quicker than is the case with other technologies,” says Bester.
“The reason for this is that cloud computing is a perfect solution for Africa where there is, firstly, not much legacy IT to deal with and secondly an acute shortage of skilled and experienced system implementers and operations staff. cloud offers “pre-configured” IT to organisations and thereby reduce the need for skilled IT resources with every customer activation,” he adds.
According to Bester the issue of control over infrastructure is central. cloud computing is introducing a paradigm shift in the way that organisations will access IT and business services he says. If any of the basic building blocks, including computing and storage infrastructure, software, connectivity and end-user devices, are missing, it will impact negatively on user experience.
“Moving away from an on-premise based IT model reminds us of the early days of computing where services were offered through bureaus. Not many people remember those days and the current generation are used to seeing and touching their IT.
“That means they could decide exactly what to deploy and how to look after it. They thus had full control over the technology, the implementation and the operations. With cloud computing they lose that. The fact that they gain on several levels still does not balance it out as most of the value of cloud computing are at a business, cost and productivity level,” he says.
Leadership at Pamoja is adamant that perception will change to realisation when facts are corroborated by the success stories of the early adopters.
“An interesting question we always ask customers is whether they use and trust online banking. If they feel secure to conduct banking transactions over the internet then they can rest assured that they can get their IT delivered securely, that way too,” Bester adds.