Kathy Gibson reports – Although Africa has demonstrated pervasive cloud adoption over the last three years, the continent is still growing and maturing.

This is according to Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, presenting the Cloud in Africa 2023 preliminary headline findings today.

African companies are still largely single-cloud users, with 60% of respondent signed up with just one cloud provider; 26,5% use two to five providers, 9,4% have 6 to 10 providers and just 2,5% use 11 to 20.

This is an indication of the immaturity of the market, Goldstuck says, adding that we will see a move to multi-cloud and hybrid cloud in the next couple of years.

Organisations across the continent are, however, cognisant that price is not the best reason for choosing a cloud provider: 52,6% look for ongoing quality of service, 22,8% want a good service portfolio, and just 11,7% choose a provider based on price. Just 9,9% of African companies choose a provider because they have a local presence.

African companies are still using mostly backup applications in the cloud, at 75,6%. Another significant use of the cloud is customer service and support apps (70%).

Most application services are hosted in the cloud (86,9%), with 11,9% hosted on-premise, 5,8% co-located, and 2% managed services.

Interestingly, a majority of African companies had no challenges in cloud adoption (72,5%). Those that did have difficulties cited lack of skills (11,2%), and costs exceeded budgeted forecast (9,7%). Other challenges were a requirement for too much employee training and employees reverting to the old ways of work, the cloud is inconvenient to manage, and it still left the company vulnerable.

In 2022, the majority of African companies (61%) increased their spending, with just 2,7% decreasing spend and 36,2% retaining the same spend.

And in 2023, a massive 69% of respondents expect to increase their cloud spending, with 6,7% aiming to decrease spend, and 24,3% remaining the same.

Once again, Goldstuck expects that this will spark a move to more maturity and we will start seeing a better balance between cloud, multi-cloud and on-premise operations.

Only 12,9% of respondents say there are local regulations that restrict their move to the cloud, so this is not a significant roadblock to cloud adoption.

However, companies do have security concerns in the cloud, with 26,2% saying there are concerned about data security (10,3%), compliance (5,8%), data integrity (5%), visibility into threats (4,8%), data privacy (4,5%), data governance (4%), denial of service attacks (3%) and policy consistency (3%).

Respondents protect their applications in the cloud mostly using the native security from their cloud providers (58,6%), with 31,9% using third party tools provided through the public cloud marketplace and 16,2% using a third-party SaaS-based security services platform.

African companies will look mostly to SaaS in the next three years (55,6%), security as a service (38,5%), platform as a service (37,7%) and infrastructure as a service (31%).

Non-cloud trends that will be strategically important over the next three years are led by big data (45,1%) and blockchain (39,4%), These are followed by software bots (28%), edge computing (23,8%), IoT and telematics (21,5%), full stack visibility (8,6%) and virtual reality/augmented reality (6%).

In Africa, where companies store their data is quite well balanced, with 53,3% storing off-premise, 32,3% keeping their data on-premise and 14,4% spreading it evenly across both.

Backup apps are still be most critical cloud application (66%), then business apps (57,7%) and customer service and support apps (49,7%). Other critical apps are operational apps, finance and accounting apps, marketing apps and logistics apps.

More than half of respondents say they are not adopting multi-cloud (52,5%). Of those that are going multi-cloud, the biggest challenge is said to be optimising performance (24,4%), protecting applications from threats (21,5%), adequate connectivity (19,5%), ability to apply consistent security policy across all company applications (15,4%), visibility into application health (12,6%) and an inability to determine which cloud is most cost-efficient (6%).

The benefits of cloud are seen to be improved security (56,6% of respondents), then what Goldstuck calls the “big three” of cloud benefits: improved customer service (43,9%), business efficiency (41,2%) and scalability (40,7%).

The bottom line is that cloud offers benefits to customers: 43,5% saw strong growth in customer experience, and 39,2% saw strong growth.

The impact on innovation has also been huge: 48,4% saw high impact, and 23,1% saw some impact.

The cloud has been positive for customer experience too: 64,3% saw an extremely positive impact, and 32,3% saw some impact.

“We can see that the cloud and customer service go hand in hand,” Goldstuck concludes.

Ian Jansen van Rensburg, director of solutions engineering at VMware sub-Saharan Africa, says cloud apps are accelerating business.

“Modern business will be built on modern applications,” he says. “People busy with the digital transformation journey are looking to modernise their applications. Cloud native applications will run in a cloud environment, and this will allow customers to provide digital experiences across the distributed workforce.”

The trend towards multi-cloud is inevitable, he adds: “Cloud is not as simple as just throwing everything into the cloud. Companies often end up with two, three or four clouds plus their private cloud.

“This leads to distributed cloud stacks, and the skills they need have to be hired, enabled and trained. So they end up with a siloed development and operational environment, disjointed networks, security and access.

“Multi-cloud and distributed clouds sounds wonderful in the marketing, but where the rubber meets the road it becomes complex. Which is why VMware is saying we need a new approach to cloud.”

Doug Woolley, country head of Dell Technologies, says that over the last four to five years, Dell has seen a huge adoption of cloud computing.

“We are coming to the fruition of where we see cloud as a standard operating model. As companies are maturing, they are starting to move to a multi-cloud environment.

“We are seeing this in South Africa, with customers starting to use the cloud model to be automated, add agility, and allow for consistency of operations and deployment. It allows them to merge all their operations in the cloud.”

Woolley says there is also a trends for companies to give up their own data centre infrastructure and move to co-location.

“South Africa is leading the cloud discussion and is at the cusp of where US and European companies are,” he adds. “Companies are using cloud to accelerate business growth and agility. They are ensuring they get an automated environment that allows for flexibility and business drivers.

“We are in a good place in South Africa, and are entering a very exciting time.”