Data Centres - the shift from long-term investment to commodity
By Rajan Padayachee, Head of Solutions Design, Projects and Portfolio at T-Systems South Africa
- Data deluge is putting increased pressure on data centres
- Shifting to cloud-based data centres are more cost effective and allow for more scalability
- Businesses need to overcome security fears and in-house application demands to make the shift
Data is proliferating at a rapid rate. Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart devices and robotics are the driving force behind this surge, with thousands of devices transmitting and receiving valuable information every millisecond. Coupled with data generated by usual business operational processes, organisations are feeling the brunt of the sheer volume of their data.
On the backend, businesses are investing in yet more technologies to manage, analyse and effectively use this data in real-time. As a result, traditional data centres are taking a hit, requiring more processing power, more electricity, more space and so on. Yet data centres are a key aspect of driving digitalisation. Those very technologies that put pressure on data centres, require them to thrive.
The shift from traditional to digital
Data centres, in the traditional sense, have typically been built around predicted data capacities, sized according to estimated volumes and, of course, operational infrastructure requirements. However, few could predict the scale of data we are now required to manage. To cope with this demand many organisations are exploring digital data platforms and shared or cloud based data centres.
The idea of leveraging cloud-based data centres on a consumption basis has massive appeal. Not only can businesses scale their services based on current demand (particularly useful for seasonal operations) but they can also begin to move away from costly on-premise data centres that chew into their budget.
Beyond the demands of data driving the need for more space and power, on-premise data centres are also expensive to maintain. Organisations need to retain costly in-house skills to manage their data centres, and keeping up with technological advancements to stay abreast of innovation means constant technology refreshes.
Many businesses have recognised the value of shared data centres over owning their own, where costs can be distributed and shared across multiple tenants. However, the organisation itself still needs to bear the costs of managing their own environment, and space can still become an issue if the data centre reaches capacity. Data centres are commodities and should start being treated as such.
Data centres are a commodity
Cloud data centres offer all the benefits of on-premise data centres, and then some. With these environments, a business can pay for what they use, leveraging infrastructure, platforms and software as a service. The cloud offers the elasticity required to shift workloads as they are required, allowing for growth and innovation while keeping costs down and scaling management of the environment.
Saying this, not all businesses may be ready for the cloud. In organisations where data is of a sensitive nature and requires strict security controls, or where they have in-house applications which may not be designed around the cloud, they will continue to require on-premise data centres.
The biggest impedance to cloud is centred around security. Many organisations believe that the cloud is not as secure as on-premise and have opted instead to keep their traditional data centres, or choose a hybrid alternative, leveraging both the cloud and on-premise where it makes sense.
Cloud is becoming vastly more secure though, and Gartner indicates that it is as secure as on-premise infrastructure provided the organisation has the right policies and processes in place to effectively manage their security. Many cloud providers - both public and private - have built their data centre services around cloud security standards that use tools which often supersede what a business may have on-premise. Threat exposure is all about the policies and controls that the business implements, whether on-premise or in the cloud, and the biggest concern that should be held is to ensure that the cloud provider’s security is aligned with the business’s own security policies.
Another barrier is the lack of portability when it comes to in-house applications that aren’t designed with the cloud in mind. This is holding many companies back, especially where those applications are business critical, and no replacements currently match them in terms of functionality. But the time will come when the only obstacle to total cloud migration will be the time it takes for businesses to re-design their in-house applications for the cloud, or leverage a cloud offer that can replace their own.
Data centres are a commodity, and should be used to derive the most business value out of an organisation’s data and applications. For now, businesses are still toeing the line between traditional, on-premise, owned data centres and more modern, consumption based cloud models. But, as businesses recognise the need to evolve, commoditising their back end infrastructure as tools to differentiate themselves from their competitors, the shift to cloud will become matter of fact.
Since the inception of T-Systems in South Africa in 1997, the company has cemented its position as one of the most successful T-Systems companies outside of Europe. A leading ICT outsourcing service provider locally, T-Systems offers end-to-end ICT solutions in both the ICT Operations and Systems Integration markets. Their extensive portfolio of services covers the vertical, horizontal, IT and TC space. T-Systems South Africa’s head office is located in Midrand with another major office in Cape Town, and 20 further representative offices in locations throughout southern Africa.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.