Boosting Business with Hybrid Cloud 

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Isa Pantami
Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami

Emma Okonji writes about a recent collaboration between MainOne, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Enterprises and how it will enhance productivity in businesses

 

At the 5th edition of Nerds Unite Forum, an annual event organised for technology professionals, which held in Lagos recently, MainOne announced its collaboration with Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Enterprises (HPE), through its MDX-i Data Centre, to provide the first commercially managed cloud services that will further enhance productivity and scalability in business across Nigeria.

At the forum, MainOne unveiled the local offering of Microsoft’s Azure Stack to its customers as part of its ‘Managed Cloud Services’.

With the introduction of the local offering of Microsoft’s Azure Stack services, MDXi will be the first data centre in Nigeria to offer the Cloud service commercially to customers in Nigeria. This latest Cloud offering by MDXi into the Nigerian market, will reinforce its leadership positioning in the cloud market, enabling the company to offer its customer a broader suite of cloud solutions. The offerings range from managed cloud deployment on public and private cloud services in the MDXi data centre, to management of offshore deployment on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure, in addition to Express Route services that enable secure, reliable communications to cloud services offshore.

 The new cloud services platform is expected to offer enterprises and businesses the choice of a scalable, flexible computing platform to enable them to migrate critical applications from legacy technology to modernized and more efficient technology without having to go offshore.

FG’s position on cloud services 

Pleased with the collaboration among MainOne, HPE and Microsoft to offer managed cloud services in Nigeria, the Director, General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr. Kashifu Inuwa, who represented the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa  Pantami, commended MainOne and its partners for the feat achieved.

He said the vision of the federal government is to transform Nigeria into digital economy through the adoption of emerging technologies like hybrid cloud. According to him, to achieve the vision, NITDA identified four strategic pillars, in line with the policies of President Muhammadu Buhari that are designed to help diversify Nigeria’s economy from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy.

Inuwa said: “Information and communications technology (ICT) has taken over oil and gas in terms of its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), and has become the third largest contributor to Nigeria’s GDP.  In order to support ICT growth in the country, the federal government went on to establish the Industrial Policy and Competitive Advisory Council to work with the private sector to come up with policy and strategy on how to industrialise Nigeria. This was followed by the issuance of Executive Orders 001 and 003 to promote ease of doing business and to drive local content respectively.

“At NITDA, we have several initiatives that will support digital transformation in Nigeria. NITDA has developed the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) to enable Nigerian digital economy. To achieve digital economy, we need to generate more data because technology is evolving and autonomous cars will be powered by data.

Our daily business operations are driven by digital technology, and we need to embrace digital economy.”

“In order to position Nigeria for the digital economy drive, the federal government, in October 17, 2019, changed the nomenclature of the Ministry of Communications to Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, which is in line with the recent global trends on digital transformation, “Inuwa added.

Infrastructure 

According to NITDA’s DG, Nigeria would needs more technology infrastructure like broadband connectivity and cloud computing and data centre infrastructure that will enable digital transformation. MainOne must be commended for building data and broadband infrastructure for Nigeria and it has even gone beyond that to provide cloud computing service to Nigerians in partnership with Microsoft and HPE.

“Cloud technology is driving global economies and global businesses like Google, Uber, Taxify, are using cloud infrastructure and data analytics to cut down on their physical infrastructure to the extent that Uber and Taxify are the biggest transportation company in the world without owning or investing in the purchase of fleets of cars.

“At NITDA, we will continue to support our startups and encourage them to develop solutions that will drive digital transformation. We need ecosystem of technology startups that will provide the necessary support for tech startups,” Inuwa said.

Industry views 

Business Group Director at Microsoft, Mr. Wale Olokodana, who spoke at the panel session of Nerds Unite 2020, said 17 per cent of CEOs today believed that their transformation would come through digital technology, driven by technology evolution like cloud computing, which Microsoft is introducing.

According to Olokodana, “Apart from CEOs, governments across boards are also thinking of how to harness the power of digital technology. The recent change in the nomenclature of the Ministry of Communications to Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, is a pointer to the fact that the federal government, including state governments, are looking for new ways to harness the power of technology. Last year, NITDA released a cloud policy to ensure that public sector institutions can responsibly leverage the cloud, with support from local providers.

“In Nigeria, we have a lot of data sitting idle and we need cloud technology to maximize the potential of data and data analytics.

Recent research has showed that every company is using various levels of cloud computing services offered by the private sector. The new trend is the major tilt by organisations towards using the cloud services to drive innovations in their organisations. They are not only looking at when to use the cloud technology, but they are also looking at the benefits of cloud computing, which is becoming very obvious.”

“So government is supporting cloud technology, hence it is coming up with policies to support cloud adoption, the CEOs are beginning to see the importance of adopting cloud technology and Africa is rising to harness the benefits of cloud computing.  In order to offer customers the best of technologies, Microsoft is investing in cloud computing services by building data centres in Africa,” Olokodana added.

He, however, said there were challenges and huddles to cross in achieving digital transformation, but stressed with the right technology as cloud computing, organisations could quickly overcome the huddles and turn challenges opportunities.

“One of the challenges is about data sovereignty where organisations are skeptical about where their data seats and who takes charge of such data.

“The strategy to achieve digital transformation is hybrid cloud which MainOne is introducing in collaboration with Microsoft and HPE.

Hybrid cloud is a solution that puts the customers first and allow them to make better decision to digitally transform their organisations. Our hybrid computing solution will provide the first managed cloud services in the country. We are providing Azure Stack Hub and Azure Express Route in a system that is engineered by HPE and we are providing customers with the same cloud computing system environment where the Microsoft Azure is seated in the MainOne MDX-i Data Centre and commercially available to everyone. It is a public cloud service that allows customers to be future ready, which is trusted and hybrid by design,” Olokodana added.

Speaking about cloud management, the CEO, HPE Operated by Selectium, Mr. Ernest Sales, said the technology of cloud management would remain on the rise and that more people would be connected to Infrastructure as a Service. He said cloud adoption was equally growing globally and commended MainOne for investing in cloud computing and for collaborating with Microsoft and HPE to provide cloud services that are hybrid designed. Cloud according to him, remained the future technology that global economies are currently embracing.

Speaking on Nigeria’s readiness to embrace digital transformation during a panel session at the Nerds Unite 2020 event, the CEO, Verve International, Mr. Mike Ogbalu, said: “Nigerian cannot talk about digital transformation with adequate cloud service offerings because cloud computing is not only an alternative, but a sure way to achieving digital transformation.”

Effective collaboration 

Stressing  the need for effective collaboration in business, while addressing the key factor in the collaboration between Microsoft, HPE and MainOne, Olokodana said: “MainOne is known for its reputable MDX-i Data Centre in Nigeria and HPE has remained a global hardware provider of high repute. MainOne has invested huge sum of money to build a world-class data centre, providing connectivity services to customers. Such collaboration will increase the benefits of using Azure Stack Hub, which is is a portfolio of products that extend Azure services and capabilities to business environment of choice—from the datacentre to edge locations and remote offices. The portfolio enables hybrid and edge computing applications to be built, deployed, and run consistently across location boundaries, providing choice and flexibility to address business diverse workloads. The Azure Stack Hub can provide connectivity without the use of internet.

Regulation

Allaying fears that regulation may stifle emerging technologies like cloud computing, the Director General of NITDA said: “Our regulation is built around governmental regulation that is not designed to stifle technology growth and innovation, but rather to globally unlock opportunities and to achieve our mission of building a country of digital innovation and entrepreneurship that will be used to create economic prosperity.Our regulation is an enabler to help industry players to scale up their businesses.”