‘Breakout year for cloud in SA’
Almost 100 South Africans joined a record 70,000 delegates at this week's Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent conference and expo in Las Vegas in preparation for the first AWS data centres in SA - forming what is termed an AWS region - due to open in the next six months.The South Africans included delegates from Vodacom, Old Mutual, EOH's cloud division iOCO, and Synthesis Software, the largest AWS advanced consulting partner in Sub-Saharan Africa.Ariel Kelman, AWS vice-president for global marketing of its cloud business, told Business Times that the company set up AWS regions "where people or companies want to run applications because they need low latency access for their customers if they're building consumer apps, or for regulatory reasons, or for preference".In financial services in particular, most countries have data sovereignty rules that require data be housed locally. "If you believe the data needs to live in your country, we're not going to win that business unless we're going to run it there," said Kelman. Andile Ngcaba, one-time director-general of the department of communications and now chair of Convergence Partners, made his eighth annual visit to the event. The inaugural re:Invent conference in 2012 attracted a mere 2,000 people, he said."Today, if you don't move to the cloud, it's not a technology issue; it's a business decision. If you are a CEO and that decision has not been taken in your organisation, you better look at the mirror, and decide whether you really can run that business."The developments that are happening in the cloud environment and businesses that are sitting in the AWS cloud, and some of the products that have been launched this week, are great products for the African continent. "I would really encourage anyone from big corporates to mid-size start-ups to entrepreneurs to move to the cloud. Digital transformation is no longer for technology companies; it is for banks, insurance companies, retail, the public sector, you name it."Vodacom, which announced a strategic partnership with AWS in May, was represented by a team led by William Mzimba, CEO of Vodacom Business. He told Business Times that the relationship had gone well beyond Vodacom simply being a customer of AWS and a reseller of its services."We've agreed on a go-to-market strategy; we've worked on a scope of services that we are going to deploy . it's quite advanced. We've made specific commitments to go deep on our partnership with AWS. They also made an intent to go deep with us." The arrival of the AWS region next year, he said, will provide a major boost for both Vodacom and the economy. His 10-person delegation was there to learn more about the innovations, new products, and new capabilities launched there, as well as "deepening our understanding of their strategy". The AWS region, he said, was deeply significant for the South African economy. "It's going to give our customers a better choice, and more options, and it's going to help reduce the cost of computing significantly." Old Mutual, which said in October it had selected AWS as its strategic cloud partner, was also out in force at re:Invent, with IT manager Conrad Blignaut leading a team of 15 software engineers and managers."In the next 24 months we are looking to move our customer digital platforms, as well as some of our core insurance platforms, into the cloud. Together with AWS Professional Services we will be moving more than a thousand applications into the cloud, and we want to be in a position by around 2022 where we can shut down our on-premise data centres. It's quite an aggressive agenda. and we're here as part of our preparation for that," he said. Michael Shapiro, MD of Synthesis Software, said that "2020 will be the breakout year for cloud in SA. Globally the technology is moving at a rapid clip, and with the size, scale and innovations being delivered by AWS, it has grabbed the attention of the business community." The AWS data centres, he said, will "have an impact on the South African economy due to the massive foreign direct investment from Amazon"."In addition to the services, infrastructure and other foundational technology being laid down, the data centre will also serve as the hub for the Sub-Saharan region. Thousands of new jobs will be created and SA will be able to remain globally competitive as digital services become the standard for business in all sectors."Richard Vester, executive director of iOCO, said the AWS region in SA will "change the discussion that we have with customers". "Data centres are a very expensive business to be in. Now, people have stopped worrying about trying to build their own data centres."