Cloud, a mainstream strategy


The cloud is now a priority option for companies looking to upgrade their ICT infrastructure

It is no secret that organisations globally and in the region have stepped up their spending in build- up of cloud computing infrastructure and services. The cloud has become the preferred option of upgrading IT capabilities for enterprises and SMBs.
Tarik Taman, General Manager, IMEA at Infor says, “We are seeing strong growth in the region and according to a recent report by Gartner, the Middle East and North Africa public cloud services market is projected to grow in 2017 and expected to reach $1.2billion, up from $956 million in 2016. The highest potential for the cloud services market in MENA comes from platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). There are several indicators of this growth, including a move away of application and workloads from on premises data centers to the cloud, as well as development of cloud ready and cloud native applications. Large enterprises in the region are seizing opportunities that the cloud offers to achieve business competitiveness while SMEs with smaller budgets are forgoing huge up-front IT costs and instead opting for scalability and agility.”
Whether, IaaS (Infrastructure as a service), PaaS (Platform as a service) as well as SaaS (Software as a service), all are gaining greater traction among larger to smaller enterprise customers in the region. Organisations are seeking the greater agility that cloud based computing offers.
Ayman El Sheikh, Solutions Architect Manager, Middle East, Turkey and Africa, Red Hat says, “IaaS, PaaS and SaaS are certainly gaining traction in this region with adoption rates increasing as the IT organization realizes that increasing IT agility is the only way to address the demand of the line of business. Every group within the IT organisation thinks about how to speed up the application lifecycle from a different angle and each one could have confidence in a different Technology. Prototyping, testing, and provisioning in production line of business applications can be done through traditional virtualisation, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud computing, or Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud computing.”
Elaborating that there is no single right approach in the cloud journey, Ayman says that the application development team may feel closer to the PaaS approach while the infrastructure and operation team could have a preference for traditional virtualisation or IaaS. Hence the hybrid approach takes precedence.

He adds, “There is not the “right” tool. Most likely, the IT organisation will have to leverage some or all of the above in combination selecting the most efficient tool for each situation, hence the hybrid cloud. Of course, offering multiple cloud platforms is not enough. Without a unifying management layer, IT organisations would end up building multiple management silos, recreating the same policies and automation steps for each platform. That unifying cloud management platform is what keeps the different portions of the same application together, no matter if they are hosted on a scale up or scale out platform, on a maintaining consistency from provisioning to retirement.”

Hesham El Komy, senior director, international channel, Epicor Software says that the adoption of SaaS among the SMB sized organisation has seen an upsurge in recent years.
“Over the last couple of years, driven in large part by the prevalent economic conditions, we have definitely seen an increase in interest from SMBs for cloud and SaaS solutions as enterprises look to swap their CapEx for OpEx. Whether it be inquiries from existing customers looking to transition to the cloud, or prospective new customers, cloud and SaaS are a part of almost every conversation we have.”
Explaining that there are a variety of reasons why cloud computing is becoming such a popular trend, Ayman says that a cloud computing environment can react quickly and, in some cases, automatically to changes in workload demand, and new applications can be provisioned with much less time lag and effort than with traditional computing infrastructures.
“An internally implemented cloud computing infrastructure improves efficiency and helps organizations save money relative to less flexible and dynamic IT infrastructures. Better provisioning processes make it easier to reclaim servers that are no longer being used for a project. These private clouds are often the evolution of a virtualized infrastructure into something that’s more dynamic and automated.”
He adds that Public cloud providers offer a way to buy computing capacity as it’s needed, which can save money, especially where the alternative is to over-purchase capital equipment to protect against demand spikes or greater-than-anticipated capacity requirements. The fact that so many public cloud infrastructures are based on Linux and other open source software also helps keep costs down. They also allow organizations to pay for their IT as an operating expense rather than making capital purchases.
Ultimately, cloud computing isn’t just about cost cutting but is also about using IT to drive innovation and respond to changes in the business. A more flexible infrastructure, whether hosted internally or externally, encourages more experimentation and iteration, which in turn lets businesses introduce new technologies and services more quickly and more often.
“Clouds based on Red Hat technologies leverage infrastructure products that are used by thousands of enterprises worldwide for some of the most demanding applications. And Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, the on-ramp for Red Hat clouds, is designed from the ground up for the needs of cloud computing with great performance, quality-of-service guarantees, and advanced security features. All this is made possible by an open source development model that brings to bear more development resources than any single company can marshal, while augmenting it with proven enterprise support,” says Ayman.
Hesham opines that there are really two key motivations for enterprises to move to the cloud. While the first reason he cites is of doing away with CapEx nature of traditional ICT spend, he also opines that the onus is squarely on vendors to maintain with cloud service contracts.
“Firstly, by moving to the cloud, organisations can significantly reduce their CapEx, specifically their hardware related costs (including space). The reduced CapEx coupled with the OpEx business model that the cloud affords, means organisations can substantially reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO). Secondly, by moving to the cloud, organisations can put the onus on vendors or cloud providers to manage maintenance, security and upgrades. This in turn allows in-house IT teams to focus on deploying and managing business critical infrastructure and applications that will help improve productivity and efficiency of the business, contributing to overall growth.“
Since the announcement of cloud-first strategy for the region last August, the cloud is a big area of focus for Epicor and the vendor offers a flexible strategy for is customers of moving between on-premises deployments and the cloud model.
He elaborates, “The Epicor cloud solution strategy is based on two basic principles. First, providing our customers a choice in how they want to deploy their ERP solution, and, second, providing easy access to point solutions that connect and extend the value of their Epicor system. Epicor ERP allows customers to easily migrate between cloud deployed systems and on premises licensed deployments with no impact on end-user efficiency. Indeed, most customers are entirely unaware of the physical location of their application and data (before or after a move to, or from, the cloud). This means that as customers’ needs change, they are able to easily migrate to the cloud (and back again if they so wish).”
If customers have Epicor ERP deployed in a single- or multi-tenant SaaS model, they retain ownership of their data, and have the ability to ‘repatriate’ it to their network at any time. Their data remains their sole confidential property, and Epicor privacy and data protection policies ensure that customers’ data is not exposed to any third party.
A vertical approach
Vertical focus is a popular approach towards building cloud solutions. According to an industry report, the increasing adoption of advanced technologies, smart technologies, digital technologies are few of the factors going to increase the adoption rate of cloud automation in verticals.
“The cloud is a trend that every single vendor is embracing. Epicor focuses on the SMB sector and delivers industry-specific solutions for a wide range of verticals in the Middle East including manufacturing, hospitality, and services. So while we already offer industry-specific, cloud ready, ERP solutions for SMBs, most other vendors in the market are also offering cloud based solutions in one form or another. My expectation is that within the next couple of years, every vendor, including local players, will have a cloud ERP option available which would be great news for SMBs in the region,” says Hesham.
Infor has also taken the vertical focused approach successfully to market. The vendor provides complex mission-critical solutions to a vast number of industries including hospitality, manufacturing, retail, and distributions, along with some of the more traditional industries. Infor has built its cloud strategy around three core parameters that determine the nature of its solutions.
Tarek says, “The cloud offers previously unimaginable flexibility to customers in the region. Infor’s approach from the beginning has been not to rewrite all our industry solutions to a single monolithic cloud solution. Our corporate strategy globally is to be the first true industry cloud provider in the marketplace. In our opinion, a true cloud solution is multi-tenant, has extensibility built into it, and has integration as a service capability. These allow the end user to configure and customise the solution around the core logic and create real-time web services moving back and forth between itself, and the upstream and downstream platforms. It is important for end users to consider whether those vendors have rebuilt flagship, complex, mission critical applications into true cloud solutions using the three benchmarks of multi-tenancy, extensibility, and integration.”
Infor claims a large customer base of several thousand cloud customers from around the world. Its global partner is Amazon Web Services.
Tarek elaborates, “From an Infor perspective, the majority of verticals we are working with include manufacturing, retail and distribution in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. These are already operating across borders and this is an area where there is limited sensitive data — mostly inventory and some transactions. However, Infor continues to attract new customers to our vertical cloud platforms as cloud adoption gains further momentum in the region. “
He expects this growth to continue, citing industry forecasts that the Middle East and Africa (MEA) cloud traffic is expected to more than quadruple by the end of 2019, with 83 per cent of all MEA data center traffic coming from the cloud.
In sum, while adoption rates of cloud computing indicates that it is more or less a mainstream option these days, the trick for Businesses is to evolve a strategy that ensures that adoption is well phased and streamlined and further on utilisation rates of deployments in place are optimised. This is where the partners will always play their role as consultants to ensure customer confidence.