Asha Speckman

THE use of cloud computing by companies is growing in South Africa, but other countries on the continent could overtake it, according to Michel Isnard, a regional head at leading open source software provider Red Hat.

Isnard, whose portfolio includes countries in southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, was in the country yesterday for a strategy meeting.

Research showed that 16 percent of companies in South Africa intended to start using cloud computing services this year. In comparison, 24 percent of companies in Kenya and 44 percent in Nigeria said they aimed to dial into the cloud.

“This means that in 2014, South Africa could hit a cloud computing usage rate of 66 percent while Kenya may rise to 72 percent and Nigeria to 80 percent,” Red Hat said, citing research conducted by World Wide Worx, a local company managed by technology expert Arthur Goldstuck.

Cloud computing is a method of delivering information technology services such as file storage and applications from a remote server. “The cloud” is essentially a metaphor for the internet. The infrastructure is located remotely and shared by companies that pay a fee to use the service.

The benefits are numerous. For example, a customer can scale up the size of the virtual server hosting its data without allocating capital towards new, more expensive infrastructure.

“The cloud represents a massive opportunity for Africa to reduce upfront infrastructure investment. It also offers more agility at lower cost at a time when budgets, as elsewhere in the world, are tightening,” Isnard said.

It is difficult to quantify the cost savings because each company’s needs are unique, but Isnard said savings “will certainly be double digit”.

Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Ishe Zingoni said: “The uptake of cloud computing services is restrained to some extent due to issues regarding data security and control. These concerns are especially pertinent in sectors such as banking and financial services, as well as the government.”

Worldwide, cloud computing is a booming industry. Forrester, a global technology market research company, has forecast cloud computing will be a $241 billion (R2.5 trillion) global market in 2020., a pioneer of cloud computing, held its first sponsored conference in Africa in Johannesburg two weeks ago, in recognition of growth of the service locally.

Cloud computing growth would have a positive effect on the South African data centre market, which was expected to earn revenues of $521.7 million in 2018 from $305.8m last year, Frost & Sullivan South Africa said this week.

Revenue would come from services such as co-location, managed hosting, hosted security, web and application hosting and cloud-based services.

Red Hat is selling the use of cloud-based services running on open source rather than proprietary software.

Isnard said open source software, which gives the user the right to study, change and distribute the software to anyone for any purpose, was popular in South Africa where users had long been familiar with the principles of open source. Company policy prohibited him from commenting on Red Hat’s growth plans.