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MTN debuts pan-African cloud services

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MTN has launched an Africa-wide cloud services offering based on Azure Pack and a strategic relationship with Microsoft.
Alpheus Mangale, chief enterprise business officer at MTN SA, points out that the partnership will see MTN bringing Azure services to all African markets through its 47 data centres on the continent.

The core benefits of cloud computing are agility, flexibility and security, he says.

The MTN starts with simple hosting in any of its 47 data centres on the continent, offering on-demand computing when customers need it. Customers can control their infrastructure costs while enjoying flexible billing and a scalable infrastructure, Mangale points out.

He points out that many companies have their own IT infrastructure, so a hybrid cloud offering allows them to
expand as needed or migrate some services to the cloud over time.

“Security is very important,” he adds. “In-country Tier IV data centres enable this.” Compliance and disaster recovery are also guaranteed for MTN customers.

Among the features differentiating the MTN offering, Mangale says, are end-to-end SLAs (service level agreements); a pan-African environment that allows the company to offer the same level of services wherever it operates; and a true hybrid cloud that offers a proven solution with geo-redundancy and a choice of the public or private hosting.
MTN in-house already uses Azure cloud services hosted in its Tier IV data centre, and the service is being piloted with three other customers.

“MTN has driven the mobile revolution across the continent,” says Mangale, adding that the company is in a good position to add enterprise ICT services. “We can afford to disrupt the market to the benefit of our customers.”

The company has made significant investments in data centre infrastructure throughout Africa and the Middle East.

“Today, we have more than 47 data centres across Africa. There are not many companies with that footprint.
“And we also have robust, carrier-grade MPLS infrastructure networking those data centres.”

The connectivity to data centres, clients and clouds is a key investment, he adds, and is complemented by the MTN SIP truck.

“That is actually a cloud platform – that’ve voice in the cloud,” Mangale says. “It allows customers to offer voice services across their organisations.”

The company has also launched, in partnership with other players, enterprise mobility management (EMM) that lets MTN manage its traditional mobile capability and enterprise capability.

“We also launched the first Internet of Things platform in Africa, developed by Africa for the African market,” Mangale says. “This lets our partners co-develop solutions for vertical markets, running on a cost-effective infrastructure.”

This was coupled with the launch of the Mind2Machine challenge aimed at getting developers to partner with MTN in the development of machine-to-machine (M2M) applications.

The latest investment, Mangale says, is in hybrid cloud. “All the investments we have been making so far create a great platform for our cloud offering to become a service that our customers rely on.”

He explains that the latest investments are in the ICT arena, and the company will continue to innovate in this space.
Zoaib Hoosen, MD of Microsoft SA, points out that Microsoft has proven application as a service, infrastructure as a service and storage as a service solutions.

“We’ve talked a lot about industry disruption, but there has been technology disruption as well,” Hoosen says. “Our customers have had to deal with all of these disruptions and are having to transform to digital businesses.”
This means that companies are embracing the digital world, which requires agility, speed and innovation.

“All of this is provided by the cloud,” Hoosen says. “Our customers need something different.”

Azure offers customers the same trusted Microsoft technology that they use today, Hoosen says. However, it allows also gives them more scope for availability and geo-expansion.

“I’m excited about this partnership,” he adds. “We always talk about cloud on customers’ terms, and this is a great example of that.”

The MTN partnership enables Microsoft’s cloud services to reach widely into South Africa and into Africa.

“I think these two powerful brands together will make a magnificent difference to our customers and their businesses,” Hoosen says.

Setting the scene, MTN CEO Mteto Nyati points out that the MTN group overall reported negative growth in the last financial year.

“This is why we decided we needed a strong focus on building new revenue streams for this business – and one of these is the enterprise space,” Nyati says. “We laid out a strategy that would ensure we were an end to end provider of enterprise ICT services.

“We are not there yet, but we are on the road; building capability and services based on the needs of our clients.”
Over the last 12 months, Nyati, says, the company has built its enterprise strategy, which is to enable and inspire growth of our customers.

In line with the strategy, MTN identified capabilities to build.

“We want to be a very strong African player; and to focus on three things.” Nyati says. “The first is geographic expansion. We have to be the partner of choice to help companies grow beyond their borders by taking care of IT complexities.

“The second area we feel we can be different is in government-to-citizen engagement. We are building capability get rid of many of the problems associated with engaging with governments.

“The third focus area is digital inclusion.”

To achieve its aims, Nyati says, the company needs to partner. “Partnership is going to be the DNA of this company,” he says. “The problems we have to solve are complex and we don’t have all the answers.”