Kathy Gibson reports from IDC Cloud and Data Centre Roadshow in Rosebank – IT services remains the key contributor to IT spending in South Africa, and saw 4% growth in 2015, despite that year seeing a decline in hardware spending.

That decline was largely from fewer PC sales, says Yonela Nkinti, senior research analyst: systems and infrastructure solutions at IDC South Africa. Data centre hardware, particularly servers and storage, have continued to enjoy growth.

South African CIOs plan to invest in advanced security solutions going forward, as well as enterprise mobility, business continuity, unified communications, analytics and social media.

There is also a focus on building or expanding data centres, along with plans to invest in managed services, software-defined networking, ERP and big data.

CIOs are also planning to increase their investments in virtualisation and in cloud computing.

In 2016, only 22% of CIOs are not planning new data centre capacity, with 2% looking to investment in 2018.

The 3rd Platform continues to inform data centre strategies, Nkinti says.

“We are living in an intelligent digital economy. Smart metering is the order of the day, while customer experience is non-negotiable,” she adds.

“This will all be driven by the third platform: mobile, social, big data and cloud.”

Companies are having to adapt to changes in the new digital ecosystem by leveraging digital technologies to create digitally enhanced, customer centric business models.

“Businesses are going to have create new revenue streams as well,” Nkinti says

Prerequisites to meet these goals include financial planning, a robust infrastructure plan, and a security blanket. IT also needs to be seen as a business enabler, while companies need to put in plan proactive strategies for dealing with the digital economy.

The data centre has transformed over the years, and is starting to become a business enabler. “We have witnessed transformation in this space,” Nkitini says.

Spending has moved from siloed solutions to more automated, orchestrated management infrastructures. Going forward, the hybrid cloud environment is expected to come to the fore.

Locally, CIOs are moving quickly to a software-defined data centre, with 16% already moving on it, with 22% implementing SDDC this year and 16% planning for next year.

Another technology trend that is seeing rapid growth in converged systems, expected to grow at 8% this year, and climbing to 14,9% in 2017 and 19,1% in 2018.

Among the transformation themes in the data centre are data protection, convergence, cloud-enabling technologies and mobility.

IDC offers guidance for CIOs going forward, with the hybrid cloud model topping the list.

“We also recommend that IT must be seen as a business enabler,” Nkinti says. “It must transform from a reactive caretaker to proactive.”

Consolidated converged cloud is the key recommendation, she adds, as CIOs look to proactively allocate resources to adapt to changing requirements and simultaneously move to an environment of software-defined everything.