Opinion Piece: Is South Africa ready for the next phase in the cloud evolution?

By Sarthak Rohal, VP – IT services at AlphaCodes

Public cloud has taken centre stage in the global IT space, thanks in large part to the pandemic forcing accelerated adoption of next-generation technology solutions. According to Forrester Research, the global public cloud infrastructure market will grow 35% to 120 billion USD in 2021, as several new trends emerge around cloud technology. While they have the potential to deliver great business value, many South African enterprises have only just come to grips with the first phase of their cloud migration. Are local businesses ready for this new phase in the cloud evolution?

Cloud on the rise

There can be no doubt that cloud adoption is growing. In addition to the Forrester predictions, Globe Newswire states that “the overall global public cloud infrastructure market size is expected to grow from 371.4 billion USD in 2020 to 832.1 billion USD by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 17.5% during the forecast period.” Demand for cloud services is massive and growing around the globe, South Africa included.

The South African market has seen a sharp increase in demand for public cloud infrastructure because of the pandemic, which forced work from home scenarios simply for organisations to continue to function. Businesses had to make an abrupt shift in their strategy and attempt to deliver a resilient, consumption-based and auto-scaling architecture, which ultimately means they needed the cloud.

Adding to this, both Microsoft and Amazon opened local hyperscale data centres in 2020, and the public sector governing bodies are driving innovation to meet national development goals. Adoption and use of the cloud is only going to increase in South Africa.

Trends with benefits

The Forrester report also highlights additional cloud trends that businesses need to be aware of, specifically ‘Edge Is the New Cloud’, ‘Artificial Intelligence (AI) Engineering’ and ‘Going Serverless’.

Edge computing is an emerging cloud trend that involves building localised data centres for computation and storage at or near where they are needed. Edge computing in the cloud enables near-real-time data analytics through iterative edge-to-cloud Machine Learning (ML). It also reduces data and transport requirements, improves cybersecurity posture and reduces the physical footprint of hardware.

AI Engineering focuses on creating and developing automated tools, machines and systems to improve the workflow of current systems and processes. It provides a comprehensive framework and tools to design ML algorithms in a dynamic environment across the enterprise-to-edge spectrum, including human-centric AI, scalable AI, and robust AI. AI Engineering benefits businesses in smart decision-making processes to meet the needs of customers and enhance customer engagement.

Serverless is the next evolution from monolithic application architecture after service-oriented architecture and micro-services architectures. It is a true cloud computing model, but it is difficult to capture its potential impact and uses going forward, as it will require a completely new way of application design and architecture. Some key business benefits include auto-scale up and scale down to dynamically handle changing loads, a true pay per execution consumption model, the ability to leverage third-party functions as services, and the facility for event-driven workflows.

Out with the old

In South Africa, we still have a large contingent of legacy infrastructure for storing data, running operations-critical applications, and connecting far-flung offices. Local CEOs and CTOs remain wary of migrating entirely to the cloud due to concerns over the costs of a migration and losing security control on their application infrastructure. However, all the signs point to a future where software, data and resources are accessed and consumed via the Internet – in other words through the public cloud.

It has become imperative to reduce spend on legacy IT and reinvest the savings into digital-enabling technologies to drive business agility, transformation, and overall competitiveness. Local businesses need to embrace the change or risk becoming uncompetitive in the new technology world. The challenge is taking the right approach to maximise value and achieve business goals, but in-house IT teams typically do not have the bandwidth to manage the continual infrastructure changes required. This is where a trusted IT partner is imperative. A partner with the right skills and expertise can help minimise risks and ensure that full business benefits are realised, helping local organisations take steps to secure their cloud future.

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