SAP: Spawning Africa’s Digital Dragons in the Cloud
Earlier this year, technology research house Gartner released a report entitled “Taming the Digital Dragon” as part of its 2014 CIO Agenda. In it, it suggests that if CIOs don’t respond quickly to a tsunami of digital opportunities, they will be washed away – but if they do, untold success lies in store.
The problem is, that for much of Africa, the digital dragon has not yet been born, let alone soar aloft. If we’re going to awaken the slumbering digital dragon on this continent, we’re going to have to spark a new generation of African solutions and opportunities. And thankfully, in the cloud, we have the ideal incubator to nurture dragons and opportunities alike.
Fact is, the cloud is here and now. Whether private, public or any hybrid flavour in between, the infrastructure necessary for people and businesses to access the cloud is rapidly falling into place as high-speed broadband becomes increasingly pervasive around Africa.
There are still infrastructure barriers in many areas, but that’s not stopping cloud service providers from building solutions for African businesses.
In July, we at SAP released a piece of research that we commissioned through IDG on Africa’s cloud readiness, and the findings were overwhelming: Africa is ripe for the opportunities that can be unlocked by the cloud, fuelled in no small part by the explosion of mobile connectivity across the continent.
Cloud adoption presents obvious advantages for Africa’s rapidly growing mobile device market. What companies of all sizes need to do now is to seize the numerous opportunities being created by mobility to create uniquely African solutions that speak directly to their customers’ needs.
Many African companies we meet talk about the age-old challenge of trying to provide growth and innovation on static budgets. How do we go digital when we’re still battling to get our CRM system up and running, they ask. That’s a modern reality that every business around the world is grappling with: on the one hand, keep the lights on, and on the other, provide innovation and transformation to the business.
What this means for Africa is that companies need to pursue new ways of using their available IT resources. We need to stop thinking in technology-centric terms, and start thinking about what it means to transform a business through technology.
The big thing that a move to the cloud does is to free up resources: financial, human, computing. Our research shows that workloads like CRM, which are tailor-made for the cloud, are barely being used in countries such as Kenya and Morocco. By putting your CRM in the cloud, you free up a lot of time and money to focus on innovation and new services.
Truly cloud-savvy businesses have dozens of enterprise software-as-a-service operations. They ask themselves: Can we do it with a hosted cloud solution? Chances are they can. But even in Nigeria and South Africa, which lead the cloud market in Africa, we’re still seeing one in every four businesses not even looking at cloud services yet.
Financial services firms are leading the charge when it comes to using the cloud for efficiency and business innovation. They have a sound understanding of the benefits of cloud computing, and are winning customers through offerings like mobile banking and other mobile money platforms that make life easier for their clients.
Overall, compared to regions like Western Europe, Africa’s cloud adoption levels are still low. This only serves to highlight the massive opportunity that exists on the continent. If we get our cloud roll-out right, we’ll have our digital dragons soon enough – and the results for the continent will be remarkable.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”