With African countries such as Nigeria and Kenya developing fast economically, there is an increasing need to provide a modern IT infrastructure that benefits the 21st Century.
To capitalise on their growing economies and competitiveness, companies in African countries like these need to embrace converged cloud infrastructure because it overcomes these challenges. It offers a complete infrastructure platform which organisations can use for all of their cloud deployments.
Nigel Moulton, chief technology officer for the EMEA region of VCE comments: “A converged cloud infrastructure approach significantly accelerates the time to deploy new services whilst also reducing the risk of downtime. ”With this in mind, he says that it’s important to make the right technology choices, relating to deploying a public, private and hybrid clouds. He adds that the other key challenge that African organisations will face emanates from the need to ensure that a balance exists between business investments, trust and data privacy.
Kenya, for example, is keen to address these issues. In February 2013 the country launched its National Cyber-Security Strategy and Master Plan, which aims to act as a guide for private companies and public sector organisations to establish their approach to cyber-security. The problem has been that most organisations tend to address to this costly and concerning issue on a reactive basis, and so the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Information and Communication, Paul Kukubo, argued that the country needs to move towards adopting a better system to mitigate these threats. This is because he believes that passwords have had their day as a means of security.
Dennis Mbuvi also wrote in his article for CIO East Africa on cyber-security in Kenya that: “Recent security issues include the defacement of 103 government websites and a number of attacks have hit the banking sector.” It is therefore hoped that the plan will offer a governance mechanism for both the Kenyan government and the private sector. This entails creating a national security assets inventory and the establishment of a list of approved cyber-security vendors. Companies in sectors such as water, power infrastructure, banking and payments all use information communications technology (ICT) in some way, and so they are all exposed to cyber-security threats.
Moulton offers his thoughts on the scheme: “Any initiative that addresses the broad threats posed by cyber-criminals is to be welcomed.” He says that there is a need for increased awareness about passwords, and he argues that the public and private sectors alike have to become more vigilant than they have been to date. He believes this is necessary because “confidence in e-commerce will be a significant engine of growth for Kenya, and my advice would be to act quickly to make sure that all sections of Kenyan society are enabled to take advantage of the huge opportunities that internet-based commerce offers.”
Research by the University of Nairobi and Microsoft nevertheless indicates that cloud computing is fairly new in Kenya. Most organisations either adopted it in 2010 or 2011. So while the impact of the technology may currently be limited, and with the security concerns being high on the agenda, they need access to technologies such as a converged cloud infrastructure and the expertise that comes with it from vendors such as VCE to ensure that their deployments are successful and become widespread. At the moment more companies use private cloud (39%), perhaps because of the security concerns. The survey of 60 organisations also reveals that 22% of organisations in the country use public cloud.
Amazingly, or perhaps worryingly, it suggests that 75% of the 54 respondents are not aware of any cloud computing standards and a further 80% state that they have no knowledge of policy and legal frameworks. Yet 90% of those surveyed thought that the Kenyan cloud services market is ready, but there remains a need to educate people about the technology which is misunderstood at the moment. Yet for cloud computing to prosper, Africa’s governments need to establish supportive legal and regulatory frameworks, make the technology available to everyone and ensure that there are sufficient numbers of technically trained people with the right skills to support it.
Moulton says that a converged cloud infrastructure platform can help companies and organisations to address issues such as the security challenge. With it you can build out private cloud offerings because converged solutions are “designed, engineered and delivered to a customer as a whole; this massively reduces the time it takes to acquire the asset”, he comments.
He also underlines that truly converged cloud solutions are managed and operated as a single resource rather than as an array of components. IT organisations can therefore spend significantly less time and effort on managing their enterprises’ infrastructure; they can increasingly focus instead on deploying services and applications that the business requires.
5 year forecast
The growing preference for mobile devices will spur on some major changes to their requirements over the next 5 years. In Moulton’s view they will become the preferred platform for computing. “Touch-driven interfaces will to some extent give way to wearable technologies, provided that they become socially acceptable and economically viable for mass consumption”, he says before adding that cloud computing will become “the platform of choice for most computing applications.”
There will also be high levels of software driven automation, which he thinks will provide unprecedented “levels of flexibility for application deployment, and near real-time analytics will mature into a business tool to better provision and manage resources.” The customer insight derived from these analytical tools will create increasingly actionable information over a much shorter period of time than is possible at the moment.
Software-defined networks will play an important role in the changes that are afoot. They alter the way networks behave and how they are managed in what is a world of increasingly virtualised servers and applications. “Software-defined networks allow an applications journey across a network to be programmed as policy with a set of rules that define the networks behaviour in respect of the application”, he comments.
The policy for this will be programmed once before being replicated across all network devices – including firewalls and load balancers. This permits the networks to adapt in a dynamic fashion to changing workloads, and he states that this is crucial to the “overall concept of the software-defined datacentre (SDDC) and a number of vendors – most notably Cisco with their Nexus 9000 switches and ACI strategy and VMWare with their NSX products and strategy – are driving technological advances in this area”.
He adds that change is a constant in the industry. His career in ICT began before mobile phones and the internet existed, and yet in his opinion they have had the biggest impact on the industry in terms of its rate of change. They have also enabled the enfranchisement of millions of people by offering them access to the digital world. Even so, he thinks there is still much more work to do. As an optimist he thinks that mass adoption of technology can only have an engagingly positive effect.
Moulton concludes by describing his first year at VCE as an “exciting ride.” VCE attracted him because it is a high growth company which offers organisations disruptive technology, and as a company he says it has a clear strategy to transform how data centre infrastructure is designed, deployed managed and operated.
This strategy is spreading to Africa because it is seen as a market with high growth potential, and so VCE is hiring and looking to expand its operations and business across the African continent and in other growth regions. VCE’s expansion is supported by its partner and investor companies; namely EMC, Cisco and VMWare. Together they hope to identify and support new opportunities in economically growing countries such as Nigeria and Kenya. With their help and by adopting converged cloud infrastructure technology, African organisations can feel more secure and able to adapt to their own changing markets’ needs and meet their evolving demands for IT.