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Cloud lets you innovate without disruption

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For decades, a CIO’s responsibility was to reduce costs and keep the a company’s IT infrastructure running. Now, CIOs and IT departments are tasked with driving business innovation, writes CAMERON BEVERIDGE, Director: Cloud at SAP Africa.

Businesses acknowledge they are buried under mountains of inefficiencies and missed opportunities. CEOs understand that digital is an opportunity or a threat. So, the question is not about awareness, but how to unleash the power of digital transformation while finding a balance between maintaining a healthy business and current infrastructure, and innovating without disruption.

The mandate from business to IT has shifted. For decades, a CIO’s chief responsibility was to reduce costs and keep the lights on just enough to run mission-critical processes.  Now, CIOs and IT departments are tasked with driving business innovation. To stay competitive in a digital economy, it is no longer sufficient to have a system landscape whose primary role is to keep records.

Most organizations invest a great deal to maintain and customise their IT landscapes to meet their unique business needs. Today, nearly every organisation has some level of cloud presence, typically for customer relationship management (CRM), human capital management (HCM), or procurement. The question we hear most often from customers is not how to make their first foray into the cloud, but rather how to design a comprehensive enterprise cloud strategy that:

  • Protects existing investments
  • Accelerates innovation
  • Keeps an organization’s unique business processes intact

Moving to the cloud does not mean breaking off some parts of the business in a piecemeal fashion or taking a rip-and-replace approach.

Cloud is one of the key drivers of digital transformation.  Cloud has disrupted the traditional IT model by drastically reducing time to market and TCO for innovative solutions.  With its ease of use and ubiquitous access, cloud has democratised the decisions about software purchasing, access, and usage.

Cloud computing offers immense opportunity for companies to improve their business operations, regardless of sector. Modern cloud offerings reduce IT infrastructure complexity and free up resources that can be better applied to driving innovation. And with security topping the list of concerns among business and IT leaders, cloud providers today invest talent and energy into ensuring their offerings are able to meet even the most stringent security requirements.

According to the IDC, cloud spending is expected to surge by 25% to reach more than $100bn, with cloud data centres expected to double in number. In a separate study, analysts found that an astonishing $237bn in profits were lost by the top 200 global companies alone, mainly due to the hidden costs of complexity.

Despite these clear signs, cloud migration of key business applications is still met with reservations and, often, resistance. IT leaders list concerns such as possible downtime, security, potential loss of control over key business processes, and cost.

Managing increasing complexity

As technologies like artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, AR, VR, and the Internet of Things become mainstream, enterprise IT systems and the digital processes they drive are getting more complex every day. Companies need to find new ways to reduce complexity while ensuring that their IT systems are flexible enough to adapt to the requirements of a shifting technology and business landscape.

Many organizations choose to migrate some or all their mission critical applications to the cloud to increase flexibility. To do this efficiently, it is critical to understand some of the key success factors for a cloud model. The high ground in any mission-critical application cloud solution comes down to four promises:

  1. A comprehensive, end-to-end SLA approach that avoids unproductive time-wasting by disparate service providers.
  2. Integration across your application landscape.
  3. Access to industry and engineering experts and best practices to support ad hoc and ongoing needs.
  4. Ability to leverage new skills and resources across infrastructure, technical management and cross vendor application management.

SAP’s cloud offerings provide companies with the global expertise and local knowledge needed to free up internal resources and shift focus away from IT management – i.e. ensuring systems are up and running – and to innovation, the driving force of all successful businesses in today’s digital economy. The benefits of this are clear:

The cost benefit of cloud

Running business applications in the cloud means less maintenance, especially in comparison to on-premise solutions, as many subscription models include company-specific maintenance and support in addition to hosting. Investments to replace outdated hardware are also no longer necessary, as these are already included in the monthly fees and service agreements.

Using managed cloud services allows companies to scale the scope of applications they pay for to what they really need. While existing on-premise solutions might have numerous functionalities that companies pay for (although they are often unnecessary), companies in the cloud only pay for what they really need and for what they use. When business requirements change, companies can flexibly adapt their services and applications in the cloud as required.

Unlocking business value

By partnering with a leading cloud provider such as SAP, companies can accelerate business processes that were previously limited by the performance of their on-premise systems. In addition, they can swiftly replace outdated applications with new ones and make sure that different company locations with previously diverging software releases are all upgraded at the same time, reducing the overall complexity of their IT landscape.

Support is similarly simplified: by moving insulated business applications to the cloud, companies are able to work with a single provider that assumes total responsibility. With a comprehensive, managed cloud offering such as the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, organisations can further optimise their IT landscape to future-proof their business. This allows them to focus on the functional and business layer of their stack – driving innovation, business value, and growth – while handing off the technical aspects of system and application management to a reputable cloud partner such as SAP.

With 125 million cloud subscribers and 44 state-of-the-art data centres in 27 locations around the world, isn’t it time you spoke to SAP about how the cloud can fit into your company’s digital transformation journey?

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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