IDC: The African Cloud

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Why the trends shaping the public cloud market in South Africa are setting the scene for business growth

The IDC South African Public Cloud Market study 2021-2025 found that one word defined the future – momentum. Cloud deployments underwent rapid growth in 2020 as enterprises raced to connect geographically dispersed workforces and build digitally robust business processes so they could survive the unexpected uncertainty. For most decision-makers, the past 18 months have been defined by transformed digital roadmaps, reprioritisation of budgets, and cutting CAPEX to embed agility and ensure sustainability. According to Jon Tullett, Senior Research Manager at IDC Sub-Saharan Africa, the next five years will see more workloads move to the public and private clouds as momentum builds towards further adoption, and that this presents opportunities for organisations and service providers alike.

“Service providers need to position themselves to catch customers as they pivot and accelerate, to ensure that they are in a place to take advantage of this momentum,” he adds. “Those that can offer solutions and approaches that fully leverage existing business investment and that allow for companies to better adapt to the short- and long-term changes brought by the pandemic are those that are likely to get the best seats in the house.”

The most stand-out trend shaping the public cloud market today is the extremely rapid adoption of public cloud services thanks to the pandemic. Over the next 6 to 12 months, this is likely to introduce greater complexity such as the widespread adoption of multiple platforms within organisations and the need to mature these platforms and investments to squeeze out their full value. Speed of adoption is unlikely to slow down thanks to the tidal effect – more applications will migrate to the cloud and, as they move, IT will likely move other parts of the ecosystem along with them – and neither will the organisation’s drive to cut costs and get more value for money.

“This movement towards the public cloud is not new, it has been around for years, but the pressure of the past year drove increased speeds to adoption for obvious reasons,” says Tullett. “Companies had to make sudden and sweeping changes to business practices and their infrastructure to ensure they could manage operations effectively in the remote workplace.”

Accelerating public cloud service adoption was an effective way of achieving productivity and collaboration in a shut-down world, and it allowed for the improved management of costs thanks to the usage-based models provided by public cloud services. A win-win. But one that cannot be left to rest on its proverbial laurels. Organisations need to start thinking about their infrastructure in terms of the cloud, regardless of location, and how they can get more from it.

“Instead of asking how the cloud will complement on-premise infrastructure, corporate conversations are now turning to how legacy infrastructure can be aligned with cloud-era applications,” says Tullett. “This isn’t restricted to private or public cloud but is more about adopting a different approach to deployment, scaling, integration, costing, and all the operational considerations that come with managing enterprise applications.”

However, despite the pressures put on companies by the pandemic and the evolving workforce that has emerged from the ashes of this complexity, many companies are still resistant to this change. There are still there are concerns that linger around data governance and compliance, which are security and skills, and the complexities that go hand-in-hand with migrating applications to the cloud.

“It can be daunting for some companies to step into this cloud infrastructure and leave their trusted and traditional systems behind,” says Tullett. “This is once again where service providers can translate the challenges into opportunities. If they collaborate with companies to assuage their concerns, then they can create new ways of working together, such as in delivering hybrid cloud management solutions, or providing security as a managed service.”

For those companies still sitting on that fence, as uncomfortable as that may be in the digital-first world right now, it’s important to unpack the benefits that come with the move to the public cloud. For the service provider, it’s a chance to build new frameworks, deliver new services, and meet customers on the very edge of the digital battlefield. For the business, there is the proven value of agility that comes with cloud – it’s got the flex the enterprise needs to shift strategy in the face of the unexpected or uncertainty.  The ability to make immediate and relevant adjustments to IT and business strategies on demand was underscored over 2020 and 2021, and the cloud was the cornerstone in helping companies to adapt.

“As organisations move out of the pandemic and look to take advantage of new opportunities, their focus will shift from a defensive posture to an expansive one and IT will be expected to support this shift with new capabilities such as automation, analytics, and agile deployment,” concludes Tullett. “And cloud will be an inevitable part of those capabilities.”


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