Kathy Gibson reports from AfricaCom, Cape Town – Africa is about to see a massive explosion in cloud usage as companies get over their fear of security and reliability to implement cloud services as soon as next year.

New research from World Wide Worx, commissioned by Cisco, indicates that medium to large organisations in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are quickly embracing the cloud for a wide range of services.

Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, points out that Africa has lighted up over the last few years in terms of Internet connections, largely thanks to the increased capacity now available via undersea fibre cables that now offer 35Tbps – set to rise to 50Tbps by the end of next year. This is a 400-fold increase from what was available as recently as five years ago.

This capacity spawns increased demand, he says, which leads to the implementation and introduction of new services. One of the solutions to this need for new services, he says, is the introduction of new data centres and access to cloud services.

Currently, companies in the three companies are using cloud services in modest numbers: 50% of companies in South Africa, 48% in Kenya; and 48% in Nigeria, for an average of 44%.

However, this big news, Goldstuck says, is how many companies are planning to implement cloud services as soon as this time next year. In South Africa, this will be 66%, in Kenya it will be 72% and in Nigeria it will be 80%, for an average of 72%.

The surprising finding that Nigerian and Kenyan companies are set to overtake the more advanced South African companies in cloud deployment possible comes down to a few reasons, Goldstuck comments. These range from a lack of education and lack of a business case, often fostered by vendors deliberately mystifying issues relating to cloud.

There are some schools of thought, he adds, that assume that South African companies are possibly complacent, almost comfortable with their Internet usage right now, while African companies are almost obliged to leapfrog into the newer technologies like cloud computing.

The dramatic shift in cloud adoption, from 44% to 72% in the space of just one year, is almost unprecedented, Goldstuck adds. “I don’t think we have ever seen such as dramatic shift in adoption of a high level business service across the continent before.”

The message this shift demonstrates, he adds, is that the companies already using the cloud are highly satisfied with the quality of the services. “The proof of benefit is out there,” Goldstuck says. “The message is that cloud is working for companies.”

The type of cloud services that are most common today are private cloud at 25%, hybrid cloud at 13% and public cloud at 7%.

Going forward, however, we will see hybrid cloud taking off significantly, particularly in markets where there isn’t a solid infrastructure currently installed.

In Nigeria, hybrid cloud deployment will leap to 44% of implementations, pulling the overall average to 28%.

The services that are most used in the cloud are storage, by a big margin, followed SaaS and IaaS within relatively strong uptake. Other services include mall, hosted Sharepoint, PaaS, hosted accounting and virtualisation.

Confidence in both security and reliability of cloud computing is high, the research finds.

In terms of confidence in security, an average 0f 34% of companies in the three counties are neutral and 57% have a high level of confidence – or 91% altogether that are not negative about security. “This means that only one in 10 companies is still afraid of security in the cloud,” says Goldstuck. “Just three or four years ago this was more than half.”

Breaking this down, in South Africa, 22% were neutral and 66% had high security; in Kenya 35% were neutral and 60% had high confidence; and in Nigeria 52% were neutral and 43% had high confidence.

More significantly, most companies have a neutral or high confidence in the reliability of cloud computing. In South Africa, 14% were neutral and 78% had high confidence for a total of 92%. However, in Kenya and Nigeria the level of confidence in reliability was at 100% either neutral or high for both countries, with no negative sentiment at all.

“These figures underpin the explosive growth we are seeing in cloud computing,” Goldstuck says.