As annoying as it is to talk about loadshedding, it’s a factor of our daily existence as South Africans that has an indelible impact on how businesses are run and, more recently, a major determinant in cloud adoption. In fact, the ongoing discussions around the threat of a total electrical grid collapse have prompted the new pandemic knee-jerk from a cloud perspective.
Businesses haven’t previously seen Loadshedding as a major factor in accelerating cloud adoption or even changing cloud providers. These discussions have focussed on the typical daily considerations, such as digital transformation, financial freedom, application mobility and all those tremendous benefits. But as companies face yet another existential crisis in the looming threat of a grid collapse, they must face the reality that they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
The cloud continuity promise
As much as an end-user needs electricity to operate a data centre, so does a cloud provider need it to keep their data centres operational to deliver the cloud workloads and infrastructure its end customers are accessing. And downtime costs businesses. For example, according to Gartner, downtime averages a cost of $5,600 per minute, which hasn’t even factored in the cost of loadshedding.
Considering the electricity crisis, cloud providers are embracing a new role beyond just being IT service providers. They are potentially a key to keeping the actual lights on. And as a result, they are putting mechanisms in place to ensure their own ongoing business continuity, such as alternative power supplies and renewable energy solutions, that allow their customers continuous, uninterrupted services to clients.
This is key for the end user navigating the potential of a grid collapse. Yes, many businesses have some form of alternative generating capacity in place, be that a UPS, an inverter and battery system charged by the grid, a generator, or a hybrid grid and solar environment. And now, with the tax incentives offered by the government for businesses to harness the power of the sun, we will see this number increase. But it’s costly to move everything off the grid – especially a full on-premises data centre, and this is the maths that CIOs are toying with.
This also makes using a cloud provider as a DR or failover environment attractive.
Evolving CIO considerations
It’s not a problem unique to South Africa. In Europe, soaring energy prices and war-induced gas shortages are negatively affecting manufacturing and fuelling inflation. One could argue that, as South Africans, we are better prepared to manage outages because we have lived with loadshedding for so long. Still, it’s ultimately a global issue requiring new business thinking.
As CIOs shift from CIO 1.0 to CIO 2.0, they must consider all these existential factors. Yesterday it was the pandemic, today it’s the energy crisis, and under all of this are global corporate sustainability goals that are all top of mind for the CEO. The CIO 2.0 needs to start thinking like a CEO, which means thinking about literally keeping the lights on of a digitally transformed business dependent on electricity to survive.
What we are personally seeing as part of this new consciousness is a move by businesses to partner with co-location companies. These cloud providers promise uptime, deliver a Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) site , and the cost-benefit of not running a data centre . They are also ahead of the renewable energy curve. Not only to help clients meet their corporate sustainability goals but for pure business survival.
A great example is our Zero Carbon Committed (ZCC) cloud partner initiative we run in collaboration with our VMware Cloud Verified providers that operate infrastructure-, energy- and carbon-efficient data centres based on our software-defined data centre (SDDC) technologies and have commitments in place to use renewable energy power.
In South Africa, initiatives like this extend beyond just sustainability goals, as a customer can start to identify cloud partners who will help them keep the lights (and systems) on in the event of longer loadshedding hours or a grid collapse.
Keeping the lights on
We may feel like we are marching towards a dystopian future. But as South Africans, we are exceptionally resilient, and innovation doesn’t happen when things run smoothly.
While we are still mulling over the possibility of a grid collapse and pinning the hopes of a nation on the shoulders of a new Minister of Electricity, we are at least not without options. And one of those options is keeping the lights on by putting workloads in the cloud. To summarise, the knee-jerk during the pandemic was to get as many workloads as possible to the cloud so that people could work from home, whereas the new knee-jerk is to get these same workloads to the cloud to ensure business survival.