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Why Your Business Needs a Cloud Architect

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By Colin Thornton, MD of Turrito Networks

As IT and business strategy align, Cloud Architects will become integral to growth.

As South African businesses look to streamline operational costs and become more globally competitive, Cloud computing has become essential.  And with the imminent launch of Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Service data centres in South Africa, local Cloud adoption will become even more attractive. According to the World Wide Worx Cloud Africa 2018 report, Cloud computing is rising sharply in the economic hubs of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria – with 74% of the SA companies surveyed increasing their Cloud expenditure during 2017. The report noted that in the coming year, over 80% of SA companies would be looking to up their Cloud spend. While making the shift to the Cloud is a positive step, businesses have to ensure that the process is managed correctly – from the initial transition, right through to proactive, daily management.

Negotiating Complexity

For larger businesses, especially those relying on legacy software and/or hardware, moving fully to the Cloud, and ensuring sustainability, can be complex.  Even businesses with modern software and hardware may find this new paradigm, so completely different from traditional approaches, difficult.  This complexity requires a careful, skilled and managed approach – which is best handled by what the IT industry terms a ‘Cloud Architect.’ As the name implies, the Cloud Architect is responsible for designing the Cloud computing environment in an organisation, which encompasses the platforms, servers, storage, delivery and networks. In addition to the planning and designing, Cloud Architects also need to provide guidance throughout a development or deployment project and then manage the maintenance and support thereafter. Savvy Cloud Architects will take ownership of these systems and environments throughout their entire lifecycle – from the initial requirements analysis through to retirement.

Importantly, the Cloud Architect role is very different to more traditional IT roles, because it is not only technical in nature. There is a critical business and financial element required. Indeed, a skilled Cloud Architect will seek to understand what kinds of competitive advantages are required, the relevant functionalities that are needed, and the unique business requirements that the system architecture needs to deliver on. Moreover, the Cloud Architect will be responsible for sourcing and managing the right vendors such as Microsoft or Amazon; contracting suitable suppliers and deciding upon the right APIs and standards.

Aligning Business Needs

As Cloud computing becomes more ubiquitous and IT Departments more streamlined, the role may quickly evolve into a financial and strategic position. Given that the Cloud Architect will be handling budgets, forecasts, reports, etc, he or she could soon be sitting within the Finance Department – as opposed to a rapidly shrinking IT Department!

When exploring the appointment of a Cloud Architect, it’s important to consider that letting a more traditional (and technically oriented) IT professional handle Cloud strategy can backfire. This is simply because technical professionals prefer to have control of their systems. There’s often a subconscious bias away from ‘putting everything in the Cloud and letting someone else manage it’. However, while there is more flexibility when a business controls everything (e.g. with a private Cloud or an on-premise server) there are often inflated costs and added risk. Increasingly, businesses are recognising that there are major advantages to relinquishing elements of flexibility and outsourcing most of the traditional IT services. And with a skilled Cloud Architect managing the relationships, businesses can arguably enjoy the best of both worlds – enhancing efficiency while reducing both costs and risk.

Recruiting for Growth

Given that this kind of role is still so new, businesses will be hard pressed to find experienced candidates off the bat. Today, leaders should rather be looking for candidates who come from roles that are closely related – and then looking for experience in other key aspects. For example, a Network Architect who has reported into a Finance Department; or an MBA who has a strong technical background. First and foremost, a great Cloud Architect will be able to grasp the business requirements – and then develop systems from there. For instance, these requirements may relate to growing profits/revenue or decreasing costs, and a good Architect needs to figure out how the Cloud can help achieve these goals. Moreover, a savvy Cloud Architect will have strong administration skills as well as highly developed interpersonal skills – as he or she will be managing key vendor relationships.

As businesses expand into an environment in which the lines between IT, finance, and strategy are increasingly blurred, professionals such as the skilled Cloud Architect will become integral to growth, innovation and sustainability.

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget spent two days at Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series of articles, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read about Netflix’s international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Google announces its ‘Netflix for gaming’

The new gaming platform, Stadia, promises high-definition gaming on TVs, computers, and mobile devices, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Google has announced that it has moved into the gaming space, and it focuses on two big aspects of gaming: streaming of games for gamers, which will allow gamers to game anywhere with a fast, low-latency Internet connection; and audiences that watch gamers in-game.

This is a big move in making gaming accessible to more gamers, as it reduces hardware costs, by utilising the benefits of low-latency cloud computing. This will be achieved by using a globally connected network of Google data centres. Gamers who stream games are most likely already using a high-speed, low-latency Internet connection, so access to the Stadia platform will be an added expense.

Through the Stadia platform, gamers will be able to access a large library of games at all times, with no installation time, on virtually any screen. Scaling of hardware like CPU, GPU, memory, and storage is also possible, as one would for cloud server resources.

Google will be leveraging its other platforms, like YouTube, with Stadia streaming. It claims that 200-million people are watching game-related content daily on YouTube. This allows, for example, Stadia players to jump in with other Stadia players – no downloads, no updates, no patches, and no installs.

For console players, Google has designed a custom controller.

The controller was designed to establish a direct connection from the Stadia controller to Google’s data centre through Wi-Fi for the best possible gaming performance. The controller also includes a button for instant capture, saving, and sharing gameplay in 4K resolution. It sports a Google Assistant button and built-in microphone, as many Google products do, for voice control. 

The device is expected to be released later this year, pending FCC approval.

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