Managing Director, Dimension Data Nigeria, Mr. Graham Frank Dinwoodie, spoke with Emma Okonji on the company’s new service offerings in cloud computing, and how it intends to use the solution to drive data penetration in the country. Excerpts:
Dimension Data is introducing cloud computing services to the Nigerian market. What is cloud service all about and how can businesses benefit from it?
Yes, Dimension Data is introducing cloud services to the Nigerian market to help business operate more efficiently and in a most secured way. My definition of cloud is that it is a different way of consuming Information Technology (IT) services on a pay as you go basis. It allows organisations to utilise and pay for only the applications that they need, and it makes IT business more efficient and most cost effective.
What is Dimension Data’s interest in cloud computing?
Cloud is the in thing today, but our interest in cloud service offerings was motivated by the gap we saw in what people call cloud service offering, and this gap is what we call the orchestration layer, first service layer, and automation layer. The gap calls for the ability of solution provider like Dimension Data to manage different components seamlessly within a control board that users can get those services on demand in an efficient manner. We saw the gap, and we decided to bridge the gap, and that is our interest in cloud computing. We have to acquire companies in order to bring their own expertise on board to offer complete solution in cloud computing. Today cloud computing has become a global trend. What differentiates cloud computing services from virtual services is the self-service capability and that is where the value comes in. We see the difference as an opportunity for us to come in and play very well in cloud computing.
The dream of every entrepreneur and solutions provider is to do business at a fairly reduced total cost of ownership. How will cloud computing ensure cost reduction and security in business?
Cloud computing is all about business automation and virtualisation. As businesses move to the cloud, the first approach that must be addressed is virtualisation. Although cloud computing does not guarantee immediate cost savings, but it helps to optimise the cost of doing business so that the business owner does not incur cost all the time. For a client to think that immediately platforms are moved to the cloud, the business begins to witness reduction in the cost of transaction, then the client is getting it wrong, because cost reduction depends largely on the amount of investments the client puts into the business.
The truth is that cloud needs a strategic and committed agenda that allows client to move into a unique environment with self-service because the cost savings actually comes in many forms, which could be power and cooling of data infrastructure, data automation, among others.
For security, it all depends on the data infrastructure. Dimension Data has a secured data infrastructure environment and security largely depends on the data infrastructure environment.
What degree of security does your cloud services offer that will address the issue of downtime in business?
We encourage business owners to move their data to the cloud to avoid downtime in their businesses. Dimension Data has robust infrastructure that supports cloud services, that addresses the issue of downtime. What we do at Dimension Data is to sign a Service Level Agreement (SLG) with our clients to ensure that we guarantee business continuity without downtime. We have 99.9 per cent guarantee on service availability, and this puts a strong check on downtime in our cloud service offerings.
Considering the low infrastructure base of the country, at what level of business growth will you advise a client to invest in cloud?
Cloud computing cuts across all forms of businesses in all sectors of the economy, ranging from small scale to medium and large scale businesses.
Yes, we have infrastructure challenge in the country, and that is the reason why we encourage organisations to move their data centres and Information Technology (IT) platforms to the cloud and allow experts like Dimension Data to manage them, while they concentrate on their core business, and this makes economic sense in business.
So cloud computing does not have an entry level demand before a client could invest in it. The bottom line is that cloud computing makes business more efficient and cost saving and that is the reason why a client with above 20 staff, can invest in cloud computing service. Small organisations as well as big organisations can put the critical and less critical applications in the cloud, while they focus on their core businesses.
A startup company of about 20 staff needs server to run its IT-related business. Now what we are saying is that instead of the client investing in several servers to run business applications, the client can sign up to a public cloud, moves both small and big data to the public cloud from where staff could have access to information, and this will enhance the clients utility of infrastructure in the public cloud, but if on the long-run, the size of the business increases and the client wants to build its private cloud, such client could also do that and manage its data and applications from a private cloud. Cloud services bring out the most efficient ways of running IT businesses.
Government can invest in cloud to ensure that citizen database is secured and managed in the most appropriate ways.
What are the benefits of cloud services to government agencies that are still battling to put their staff database together?
What government needs at this level is the private cloud. We offer private cloud services, public cloud services and hybrid cloud, but for government agencies that need to put together the database of their staff, such agency needs a private cloud that belongs only to that agency and managed by the agency, such that only its staff can have access to it.
It brings a more efficient way of managing infrastructure. There is a massive value for government to invest in private cloud. What happens in most government organisations is that different departments manage their own data centres, and unless these different data centres are managed in a secured and safe environment, then it could lead to some form of challenges. The best thing to do in this kind of situation is to adopt the private cloud.
Government agencies can save above N200 million annually, using cloud computing services.
How will Dimension Data help big organisations to manage big data, using the cloud service?
If you look at the issues surrounding big data, it has to do with having a lot of storage capacity to accommodate the big data and it will not be economical for an organisation to manage their big data, without the cloud service, because what the organisation need is the output of the data management. Cloud is a better way of paying for only what you use in data application.
Nigeria has done well in voice telephony, but data penetration is still low. Will cloud service offerings from Dimension Data help drive data penetration in the country?
Absolutely yes, I must tell you. Cloud is an appropriate technology that will drive data services through its wide area connectivity level. Cloud computing will definitely drive data adoption because people have high demand for it to enable them get better connectivity. Email, Facebook, data penetration, can be largely driven by cloud services.
How will small and medium businesses (SMBs) benefit from cloud computing?
SMBs need public cloud offerings and this will give them better accessibility and the ability to choose their own location to host their servers. They do not need to invest in private cloud. With private cloud, they can do their business in the most efficient way that will boost business growth.
Giving the benefits of cloud computing to small and big organisations, do you see Nigerians adopting the service in the near future?
Cloud is like a journey in the technology business, and people are beginning to see the importance of adopting cloud services. Most of our enterprise customers are beginning to do some level of virtualisation in their work environment, which is a step to investing in cloud computing. We are in the business to accelerate the journey for them, because Nigeria is ripe to adopt cloud services. We are in Nigeria to help enterprise clients manage their own platform in a most efficient manner, using cloud computing services. In my view, I see a rapid adoption of cloud computing service in the next two years.
What could be the challenges in deploying cloud computing services in Nigeria?
Yes there are challenges, but it is not about the challenges, but the opportunities that could be derived from such challenges that matters. As Dimension Data, we see a lot of opportunities for business owners in adopting cloud technology.
Has Dimension Data any plan to build public cloud in Nigeria, to give businesses the opportunity to key into cloud computing?
We are yet to establish a public cloud in Nigeria, but we have established data centres in Nigeria, from where we host most of our clients’ applications. We are in the business of building more data centres because we are not just a cloud company, but a solution provider.
Yes we have built a public cloud in South Africa and other countries of the world, and we can do same in Nigeria, but we need to first understand the market opportunities, based on the size of the market. If we have enough customers that want to go to cloud, we can build public cloud in a short period of time.
We have been involved in building smart cities in different parts of the world, depending on what the community and the city wants to achieve with it.
In Nigeria we are in discussion with a number of states to see how we can enable that in Nigeria.
Could you tell us your involvement in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives?
Dimension Data has been in Nigeria in for over 8 years and we are involved in a lot of CRS initiatives for the country. We partnered Industrial Training Fund (ITF) scheme, where we admit students on industrial training. We are also working with government for identity management programmes.
What incentives do you have for SMBs in adopting cloud computing?
We have some forms of incentives to woo small and medium businesses (SMBs). Our price offering is the first level of incentive, which is pocket friendly. Again we offer 14 days free trials of our solutions for all our potential customers on our cloud computing service. They are allowed to play around the service and decide when to adopt it as a service.
What are your marketing strategies that will attract customers to your service?
We have large number of clients in telecommunication, oil and gas, financial services among others. Our strategy is largely on awareness creation through our sales representatives and we have campaign that is up and running to create awareness of our services and solutions. We also have one-on-one interaction with our customers, educating them on the need for cloud computing.
Dinwoodie is the Managing Director of Dimension Data, since April 2012. He is responsible for the company’s operation and drives its strategies, with a focus on developing business opportunities.
Prior to his appointment, he was the Financial and Commercial Director of Dimension Data Nigeria, where he assisted with tactical and strategic finance related matters. He provided the key support for the operational costs and capital investment decisions, business planning, forecasting and reporting processes. Previously he held positions as Financial Manager in different divisions at Dimension Data Africa and Middle East, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Angola and Morocco.
Prior to joining Dimension Data, Dinwoodie worked as Financial Manager at Stainless Steel and Aluminium Distributors.
With over 20 years of experience in financial management for blue chip companies across various sectors, he held various leadership roles, leading to business development, financial forecasting and analysis.
Born in South Africa, Dinwoodie has a Bachelor of Accounting from Wits University. He plays golf as hobby.