Over the last few years there has been a significant shift in how the South African government has managed their IT requirements.

By Mohammed Amin, senior vice-president: Middle East, Russia, Africa and Turkey (MERAT) at Dell Technologies.

Previously technology was a business facilitator, it made it easier for staff to run a business. But today in a post-pandemic world, technology is rapidly transforming the way governments operate by accelerating innovation, driving efficiencies and streamlining operations. This fast track towards digital transformation has seen increased interest, investment and demand for hybrid cloud.

According to an article written by Deloitte, “Cloud adoption in South Africa is still very reactionary, specifically due to regulatory issues, compliance and security concerns, bandwidth constraints and inadequate understanding about what makes cloud computing different from traditional virtual infrastructures.”

That was until the Covid-19 pandemic hit globally, transformation has now been driven by necessity.

In the current economic, political and business environment, a major objective for government is to find ways to leverage cloud as an operating model to enable easy managing, scaling and sharing of compute, storage, networking and data protection. This is largely because the Covid-19 pandemic shed a new light on the value of risk management, raising the question of what government organisations need to do now and, in the future, to improve digital capabilities and agility.

Aiming for a flexible hybrid cloud

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, too many organisations made decisions related to cloud workload transitions without a longer-term plan or vision of what was being sought. Solutions were made point-by-point around individual software and problems, but such investments often do not result in the best overall solution.

While organisations may have moved fast – and often pushed forward into multiple clouds – they now find themselves in a cloud sprawl. However, the need for consistent operations and infrastructure across clouds is paramount, so organisations are quickly finding that hybrid cloud models are the right strategy when it comes to longer-term costs, scalability and security.

Above all, the strengths of a hybrid cloud are its flexibility and openness, allowing changes to be made when a new direction is needed. With a hybrid cloud, data applications, services and workloads can be managed and moved across private and public clouds using the same consistent infrastructure and operating environment.

The push toward multiple cloud environments also offers government in South Africa, and globally for that matter, the flexibility to rethink IT in terms of their workloads and specific mission needs. Cloud is not a destination, it’s an operating model that should be adjusted to address evolving needs.

As remote work increases, integrating multiple clouds is critical and allows agencies to easily scale depending on workload and provide the transparency needed to enhance security.

Cloud without compromise

According to respondents in a study conducted by World Wide Worx, titled Cloud in Africa 2020, 7 out of 10 respondents said that the cloud has been key to the public sector continuing with remote working, compared to more than 8 out of 10 in the private sector.

The report goes on to say that “while this is not a vast gap, it does inĀ¬dicate that governments have been less agile in harnessing the cloud, largely due to an overemphasis on bureaucratic processes rather than operational efficiency”.

While there is presently no consistent regulation governing cloud usage in the South Africa, cloud has inevitably played a key role in national government efforts towards positioning South Africa as a digital economy of the future.

In South Africa, the initial rapid shift to remote working as the pandemic hit, illustrated the immediate benefits of flexible hybrid and multi-cloud environments. This is confirmed by the Cloud in Africa 2020 study that revealed that the most common uses by government were remote working (69%), public communications (55%), and crisis coordination (50%).

Most government agencies have a mix of public and private clouds. In an office environment it’s easy to cross-pollinate, but a remote workforce often struggles sharing data between the two, unless using an effective hybrid approach. Agencies run both private and non-sensitive workloads daily, making a hybrid-cloud approach a universal best practice. This hybrid approach keeps data secure and accessible, while providing consistency across public, private and edge environments.

Furthermore, with an exponential increase in the number of devices connecting to agency resources via the cloud, flexible environments kept critical tasks running and allowed government officials to work remotely while still accessing essential government resources.

Scalability became more important than ever to ensure essential government responsibilities and duties could continue. Experience gained during the pandemic has led government officials to expand working from home policies even now as governments reopen their offices.

Finally, operating in multiple cloud environments also accommodates changing security needs. So, as governments rapidly shifted to remote work, they had to ensure data security and having the ability to move certain workloads to public clouds, while keeping others on premise was critical.

To conclude

Achieving a unified hybrid cloud experience starts from developing a centralised cloud strategy and roadmap. From there, an infrastructure and management solution that abstracts the underlying cloud environment and provides a common management interface must be implemented. Lastly, organisations will have to take note of budgetary concerns and find the right blend of capex and opex to optimise cloud economics.

At the end of the day, government agencies want to ensure a unified hybrid cloud experience that will provide them consistent infrastructure and operations at every location the cloud resides. This includes on-premises data centres to public clouds and the emerging edge – allowing them to have greater control of their multi-cloud journey. These organisations also want to leverage cloud infrastructure in a way that supports their business needs.

With the challenge of managing multiple clouds and operating environments, a consistent hybrid cloud approach often proves to be the best solution to drive long-term business success.