If a South African business wants to get going with public cloud services, its best bet is to go outside the country and sign up with any one of a number of overseas providers. The cost of bandwidth and the latency aren’t the best, the support varies wildly and the exchange rate is a pain, but hey, at least it’s cloud. IBM wants to change all this and has introduced a public cloud service for the local market – the first public cloud service in this country, in fact, called SmartCloud. It’s the local flavour of the international offering that’s been going for a couple of years now. SA is also getting its own IBM Cloud Datacentre and IBM Cloud Lab linked to the company’s global network. Werner Lindemann, VP for global technology solutions in sub-Saharan Africa, jokes that he nagged for the local datacentres because the latency and bandwidth to Europe weren’t acceptable.
“We’re only the fourth country in the world to get both a Cloud Lab and a Cloud Datacentre,” says Lindemann. “This is the first opportunity for enterprise clients in South Africa to benefit from hybrid private cloud offerings that offer predetermined service level agreements on a Software as a Service (SaaS) or utility computing-based model, while also conforming to governance issues around data storage. Although we’ve been doing cloud for the last 18 months for customers inside their datacentres, this is the first enterprise-grade catalogue-based solution for the South African market.”
The catalogue has four menu items for now. The first is SmartCloud Enterprise, an enterprise-grade virtual server environment for development, testing activities and dynamic workloads. Linux and Windows virtual machines are supported on a choice of nine different x86 virtual servers, and DB2, Lotus, Websphere, Rational and Tivoli stacks are available as well. The second is SmartCloud Mailbox, which is e-mail as a service for businesses looking to do pay-as-you-go on their environments.
“We get customers asking whether they can host 60 000 mailboxes in the cloud,” says Lindemann. “With this, they can.”
There’s also a managed backup service and SmartCloud Archive, which is aimed at anyone requiring stringent privacy and regulatory compliance, from advanced indexing, search and retrieval, to e-discovery capabilities. Mariana Kruger, business continuity and resiliency services lead at IBM SA, says about 17 percent of IT budgets is spent on storage and that data is doubling every two years.
“There’s a huge data monster we need to get under control. Too many customers we see have backups that fail or media that cannot be restored. But there’s also the cost of legal discovery and review of archival data. Gartner quotes $6 million per legal case. That’s a huge cost to any organisation that doesn’t have information archived properly.”
According to IDC, worldwide revenue from public IT cloud services exceeded $21,5 billion in 2010 and will reach $72,9 billion in 2015, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.6 percent. Another IDC survey says 39 percent of cloud users report that the hybrid cloud is currently part of their strategy, with this number expected to grow to 61 percent in the near future as both private and public cloud users evolve towards the use of a hybrid strategy. Mark Walker, director of insights and vertical industries at IDC MEA, says the shift from hype to commercial discussion has now happened. “Cloud computing is not just a new package to the concept of centralised computing, it’s the beginning of utility computing offering both tactical and strategic business benefits. We see that one of every $7 spent on packaged software, servers and storage will be spent through the cloud.”
He says that 2012 will be a big year for private cloud adoption as the next generation of enterprise software designed for the cloud will start rolling out. He also expects public cloud services adoption to grow at five times the rate of the rest of the IT industry. Lindemann says the software and services being offered in SmartCloud are not actually new.
“But two things are new: the industrialisation and automation, and the new delivery models about how customers can consume process and capacity. Cloud services are about on-demand self-service. You should be able to go to a catalogue, look for what you want and physically buy it on a pay-per-use basis. And there has to be real benefit for the business. If you can’t monitor and measure the consumption and usage, then there’s no benefit for anyone. When I speak to a CFO, I say cloud for the IT environment is like activity-based costing and his eyes light up.”
Why has it taken until now? The answer is unsurprising.
“We’ve waited until now to launch public cloud because of broadband costs,” says Lindemann. “We’ve done analysis and broadband is 50 percent cheaper than it was a year ago. So it’s now the right time to deploy cloud.”