Bat­tle for the cloud

Cloud is mod­ernising and stream­lin­ing the way in which re­peat­able so­lu­tions and ser­vices are de­liv­ered to clients. South African tel­cos op­er­at­ing in Africa are catch­ing on and big in­dus­try play­ers are march­ing to the vir­tual bat­tle­ground in an ef­fort to d

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE - BY GUGU LOURIE

Telkom’s ac­qui­si­tion of tech­nol­ogy firm Busi­ness Con­nex­ion (BCX), a big move to­wards cloud ser­vices, will help the paras­tatal ad­dress the in for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tion (ICT) needs of lo­cal busi­nesses. It also pro­vides Telkom with a ready-baked Africa strat­egy, cov­er­ing more than seven African coun­tries.

Global online re­tailer Ama­zon has joined the fray, an­nounc­ing in Au­gust that it would set up an of­fice in Johannesburg for its cloud com­put­ing busi­ness – Ama­zon Web Ser­vices (AWS) South Africa – with plans to hire as many as 250 peo­ple in the coun­try.

At the same time, Vo­da­com is qui­etly ex­pand­ing its en­ter­prise busi­ness – which of­fers var­i­ous ser­vices such as cloud across Africa – eye­ing op­por­tunis­tic growth in Nige­ria, Morocco and Zam­bia.

All large op­er­a­tors in SA, as well as smaller op­er­a­tors In­ter­net So­lu­tions and Vox Tele­com, are try­ing to po­si­tion them­selves as cloud play­ers, says Dobek Pa­ter, MD of Africa Anal­y­sis, which spe­cialises in the anal­y­sis of tele­coms in emerg­ing mar­kets.

But which of the lo­cal tel­cos is best­po­si­tioned in the space for cloud ser­vices?

Some an­a­lysts seem to think Vo­da­com. How­ever, Telkom and BCX might rat­tle the cage, warns Farai Mapfinya, port­fo­lio man­ager and head of eq­ui­ties at JM Busha As­set Man­agers.

“BCX has been in the cloud space for a while and owns one of the data cen­tres in Midrand, which has a Tier IV cer­ti­fi­ca­tion; we think Telkom is likely to pose a greater threat go­ing for­ward,” says Mapfinya.

Charles Lalieu, man­ag­ing ex­ec­u­tive for cloud strat­egy at BCX, ex­plains: “What sets us apart is that we seam­lessly help [clients] tran­si­tion to the cloud of [their] choice on [their] terms.”

Lalieu adds: “Notwith­stand­ing this, BCX has the only t wo com­mer­cial Tier IV car­rier-neu­tral data cen­tres on the con­ti­nent, which means we are prob­a­bly best po­si­tioned to make use of and sell cloud ser­vices lo­cally, or in­te­grate into in­de­pen­dent soft­ware ven­dor or cus­tomers’ data cen­tres; we’ve al­ready been do­ing this for some of our en­ter­prise cus­tomers.

“As we move to a more au­to­mated of­fer­ing it def­i­nitely cre­ates a new way of pro­vid­ing IT ser­vices. Is this a new bat­tle­ground? Pos­si­bly,” says Lalieu. “The con­sump­tion of these so­lu­tions re­lies on IT ser­vices and con­sult­ing […] which are all tra­di­tional, just evolv­ing to meet the new busi­ness mod­els.”

Mapfinya agrees that de­clin­ing rev­enues in the tra­di­tional lines for the tel­cos make cloud and data the next bat­tle­ground. But MTN Busi­ness says it is not gear­ing it­self for a bat­tle in the cloud space. “Our pur­pose is not to fight for rev­enue, but to en­able and in­spire growth of our cus­tomers. What we have built is key to driv­ing down our cus­tomers’ ICT costs, en­sur­ing that they are f lex­i­ble and can take their ser­vices to mar­ket quickly, mak­ing them more com­pet­i­tive,” says Alpheus Man­gale, chief busi­ness en­ter­prise of­fi­cer at MTN SA. He be­lieves MTN is well-po­si­tioned in the data space due to its global mul­ti­pro­to­col la­bel switch­ing ( MPLS) mech­a­nism that con­nects cus­tomers to over 23 points of pres­ence. “We are in the unique po­si­tion of hav­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise gleaned from op­er­at­ing across di­verse mar­kets.”

Vo­da­com Busi­ness, which has a global MPLS that has points of pres­ence in 27 coun­tries, ar­gues that de­vel­op­ing cloud-based ser­vice ca­pa­bil­i­ties is not only about ad­di­tional rev­enue streams but “is also about re­main­ing rel­e­vant in a fast digi­tis­ing African econ­omy.”

Vo­da­com and MTN have been in­vest­ing in their MPLS, which pro­vides f lex­i­bil­ity to trans­port and routes var­i­ous types of traf­fic ef­fi­ciently and quickly. This will likely help op­er­a­tors, as lack of f ibre net­works may be a bar­rier for the full de­ploy­ment of cloud ser­vices. “Tel­cos are par­tic­u­larly well­po­si­tioned to suc­ceed in t he mar­ket for cloud ser vices given their net­work ca­pa­bil­ity,” says Vuyani Jarana, Vo­da­com Busi­ness chief of­fi­cer.

Vo­da­com in­vests more than R8bn an­nu­ally in its net work in­fra­struc­ture, says Jarana, but he bel i e ves t hat tel­cos will need to col­lab­o­rate and cre­ate al­liances to ad­dress Africa’s cloud ser­vices needs.

Alpheus Man­gale Chief busi­ness en­ter­prise of­fi­cer at MTN SA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.