Developments in the local ICT sector are beginning to converge, signifying a major change for cloud computing, says KABELO MAKWANE, Managing Director of Accenture Cloud First business in South Africa.
A number of recent developments in the broader information and communication technology (ICT) sector have converged, signifying a massive step change for cloud computing in the country.
Of great importance, has been the aggressive expansion of terrestrial fibre networks across South Africa’s major metros by numerous infrastructure providers, which has given businesses of all sizes, including those in decentralised locations, access to high-speed, uncapped broadband.
The continued roll out of high-speed wireless broadband in the form of 4G, and now 5G in certain areas, has also contributed to an increase in the adoption of basic cloud-based services such as web applications or smaller production systems.
In addition, and somewhat interrelated, is the impact and influence that workforce mobility has had, predominantly the ’bring your own device’ (BYOD) workplace paradigm. This trend is being driven by employees who want to use personal smartphones and tablets to access company networks, and the desire by businesses to improve workforce productivity and efficiency by ensuring on-demand access to applications and mission-critical systems and information.
Finally, in what is potentially the most significant recent development, and undoubtedly marks the tipping point for mainstream cloud adoption locally, Microsoft announced that Microsoft Cloud — including Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 — will, from 2018, be delivered from local data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The arrival of this in-country public cloud infrastructure, coupled with reliable, high-speed, end-to-end fibre access into the Microsoft data centres, means local businesses will soon lead in the New IT with access to a comprehensive cloud solution that answers many of the regulatory issues previously faced with off-shore hosting, such as data sovereignty and security.
Accordingly, Microsoft customers, which predominate business and public sectors, will now be more inclined to consider cloud computing, given the alignment of these factors, and the fact that vendor software licensing models have also evolved to preference cloud-based usage.
And the value proposition of Microsoft’s Azure cloud offering – a flexible, integrated platform that can operate as a full public or hybrid cloud solution, with enormous scalability – is even more enticing for customers that currently run on-premise SAP ERP solutions. Many organisations running legacy ERP systems are in need of an upgrade. They should therefore already be considering the next evolution of their core business systems, which form the heart of their everyday business operations.
If cloud computing in not already part of their next upgrade path, be it a full public solution or a hybrid model, then these companies are failing to grasp the magnitude of recent developments.
Firstly, the on-premise model often does not make business sense, both from a cost and an operational perspective. Cloud computing, on the other hand, enables businesses to leverage the investments, innovations and developments that cloud providers have already made. This negates the need to commit capex, and the considerable time and energy needed to develop standalone, on-premises solutions.
Secondly, many organisations using SAP as their core ERP system are, more than likely, already running specific elements in the cloud, with software-as-a-service solutions such as SAP SuccessFactors for human resources, or SAP Ariba for procurement. And SAP S/4HANA’s capabilities and suitability for cloud platforms as a ‘next generation’ ERP solution are accelerating the need to migrate to the cloud, to gain the flexibility and agility that required by successful businesses in the digital age.
Similarly, new companies or rapidly growing start-ups that are considering large-scale investments into core business systems for the first time are ideally placed to deploy out-of-the-box solutions into the cloud, fully bypassing the onerous on-premise approach, which today makes the most financial and operational sense. This also offers scalability, to facilitate any rate or degree of future growth due to the economies of scale that can be achieved in data centres.
There are also companies that may be in the process of a major ERP implementation, and are busy fine-tuning customisation. During this process they will need to consider how to achieve this in the most cost effective and efficient manner. The application development, testing and commissioning phases require significant computing real estate to succeed, with the public cloud environment is the best placed to facilitate this process in the most cost effective and efficient manner.
Accordingly, whatever position a company may find itself in, the cloud computing discussion currently taking place around boardroom tables needs to shift from a hypothetical debate, to one that seeks to define a strategy for the adoption of cloud computing and the migration of core business systems into the cloud.
Faced with the facts and the cumulative effect of recent develops, there can be little doubt left that for businesses in South Africa, all roads now lead to the cloud. And when it comes to provisioning cloud-based SAP solutions, Accenture believes that Microsoft Azure is a compelling value proposition. It offers cost benefits, and Azure is an open Microsoft platform, enabling greater interoperability with other systems and native integration with a variety of developer tools, including open source variants.
The time has therefore come for businesses to commit to a cloud strategy by first assessing their current core system lifecycle and subsequently developing a roadmap, ideally with a strategic cloud partner that understands every facet of the journey to cloud adoption, from the application assessment and cloud value realisation strategy, cloud transformation and migration, to ultimately cloud management and optimisation.
Data gives coaches new eyes in sports
Collecting and analysing data is entering a new era as it transforms both coaching and strategy across sports ranging from rugby to Formula 1, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
Coaches and managers have always been among the stars of any sports. They become household names as much as the sports heroes that populate their teams. Now, thanks to the power of data collection and analysis, they are about to raise their game to unprecedented levels.
The evolution of data for fine-tuning sports performance has already been experienced in Formula 1 racing, baseball and American football. All are known for the massive amount of statistic they produce. Typically, however, these were jealously guarded by coaches trying to get an edge over their rivals. Thanks to the science of “big data”, that has changed dramatically.
“American baseball has the most sophisticated data science analytics of any sports in the world because baseball has this long history of stats,” said Ariel Kelman, vice president of worldwide marketing at Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing giant that is working closely with sports teams and leagues around the world. “It’s an incredibly opaque world. I’ve tried for many years to try and get the teams to talk about it, but it’s their secret sauce and some of these teams have eight, nine or ten data scientist.”
In an interview during the AWS Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas last week, Kelman said that this statistical advantage was not lost on other sports, where forward-thinking coaches fully understood the benefits. In particular, American football, through the National Football League there, was coming on board in a big way.
“The reason they were behind is they didn’t have the player tracking data until recently in in the NFL. They only had the player tracking data three years ago. Now the teams are really investing in it. We did an announcement with the Seattle Seahawks earlier this week; they chose us as their machine learning, data science and cloud provider to do this kind of analysis to help figure out their game strategy.
“They are building models predicting the other teams and looking at players and also evaluating all their practices. They are setting up computer vision systems so that they can track the performance of the players during their practices and have that inform some of the game strategies. The teams then even talk about using it for player evaluation, for example trying to figure out how much should we pay this player.”
Illustrating the trend, during Re:Invent, Kelman hosted a panel discussion featuring Rob Smedley, a technicalconsultant to Formula 1, Cris Collinsworth, a former professional footballer in the NFL and now a renowned broadcaster, and Jason Healy, performance analytics managerat New Zealand Rugby.
Healey in particular represents the extent to which data analysis has crosses sporting codes. He has spent four yearswith All Blacks, after 10 years with the New Zealand Olympic Committee, helping athletes prepare for the OlympicGames.
“The game of rugby is chaos,” he told the audience. “There’s a lot of a lot of things going on. There’s a lot of trauma and violence and it can be difficult to work out the load management of each player. So data collection is a big piece of the technical understanding of the game.
“A problem for us in rugby is the ability to recall what happened. We have to identify what’s situational and what’s systemic. The situational thing that happens, which is very unlikely to be replicated, gets a lot of attention in rugby. That’s the sensational big moment in the game that gets talked about. But it’s the systemic plays and the systemic actions of players that lies underneath the performance. That’s where the big data starts to really provide some powerful answers.
“Coaches have to move away from those sensational andsituational moments. We’re trying to get them to learn what is happening at that systemic level, what is actually happening in the game. How do we adjust? How do we make our decisions? What technical and defensive strategies need to change according to the data?”
Healey said AWS was providing platforms for tracking players and analysing patterns, but the challenge was to bring people on this technology journey.
“We’re asking our coaching staff to change the way they have traditionally worked, by realising that this data does give insights into how they make their decisions.”
Kelman agreed this was an obstacle, not just in sport, but in all sectors.
“Across all of our customers, in all industries, one of the things that’s often underestimated the most is that getting the technology working is only the first step. You have to figure out how to integrate it with the processes that us humans, who dislike change, work with. The vast majority of it is about building knowledge. There’s ways to transfer that learning to performance.”
Of course, data analytics does not assure any side of victory, as the All Blacks discovered during the recent Rugby World Cup, when they were knocked out in the semi-finals, and South Africa went on to win. We asked Healey how the data-poor South Africans succeeded where the data-rich All Blacks couldn’t.
“You have to look at how analytics and insights and all thesetechnologies are available to all the coaches these days,” he said. The piece that often gets missed is the people piece. It’s the transformation of learning that goes into the player’sactual performance on the field. We’re providing them with a platform and the information, but the players have to make the decisions.. We can’t say that this particular piece of technology played a role in winning or losing. It’s simply just a tool.”
The same challenge faces motor racing, which generates massive amounts of data through numerous sensors and cameras mounted in vehicles. Rob Smedley, who spent 25 years working in engineering roles for Formula 1 teams, quipped that his sport had a “big data” problem before the phrase was invented.
“We’ve always been very obsessive about data. Take car telemetry, where we’ve got something like 200 to 300 sensors on the car itself. And that goes into something like two to three thousand data channels. So we’re taking about around 600 Gigabytes of data generated every single lap, per car.
“On top of that, where we’ve also got all the time data and GPS data. The teams are using it for performance advantage. We’re into such marginal gains now because there are no bad teams in Formula 1 anymore. Data analytics provide those marginal gains.”
• Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee
IoT faces 5-year gap
In five years, the world will have more than 40 billion devices. Locally, IoT specialist,Eseye, says that South African CIOs are recognising IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (Machine to Machine) technologies as strategic imperatives, but the journey is still in its infancy.
“As legacy systems start to reach end of life, digital shifts will become inevitable. This, coupled with an increasing demand for improved bottom line results from existing and new markets, makes IoT a more viable option over the next five years. This is particularly prevalent in manufacturing, especially where time to market and product diversification has become necessary for business survival,” says Jeremy Potgieter, Regional Director – Africa, Eseye.
He says that within this sector one thing matters – output: “Fulfilling the product to market lifecycle is what makes a manufacturer successful. Addressing this functionality and production optimisation through technology is becoming more critical as they focus on increasing output and reducing downtime. By monitoring machinery and components in the production line, any concerns that arise, which impacts both the manufacturer and consumers alike, will be more efficiently dealt with by using an IoT approach.”
Potgieter says that there is also the growing strategic approach to increase the bottom line through new markets. As manufacturers seek new revenue streams, Eseye is encouraging the use of rapid IoT enabled device product development : “By addressing the connectivity aspects required at deployment, manufacturers are immediately diversifying their portfolios. Eseye, as an enabler, assists by providing market ready SIMs, which can be embedded into IoT connected devices at OEM level, connecting them to a plethora of services (as designed for) upon entry to market, anywhere in the world.”
In addition, Potgieter says that organisations are increasingly looking towards IoT connectivity managed services to capitalise on specialist expertise and ensure the devices are proactively monitored and managed to ensure maximum uptime, while reducing data costs.
Impacting IoT adoption though, is undoubtedly the network infrastructure required. Potgieter says that this varies significantly and will depend on criteria such as sensor types and corresponding measurements, the overall communication protocols, data volume, response time, and analytics required: “While the majority of IoT implementations can be enabled using cloud-based IoT platform solutions, the infrastructure required still remains important. A cloud platform will simplify infrastructure design and enable easy scaling capability, while also reducing security and data analytics implementation issues.”