If you’re a South African business, it may well be the most exciting time for cloud computing.

This is the impression we got during an interview with regional director for Sub-Saharan Africa at Citrix, Brendan McAravey, who touched on the recent availability of Microsoft’s Azure data centres, the potential of SD-WAN solutions, and how the company‘s Workspace Intelligence is changing environments, along with a few more factors.

While McAravey is the first to concede that political and economic uncertainty is causing an atmosphere of caution across the industry, he also points out that savvy organisations can leverage the most that cloud currently has to offer to gain a competitive advantage.

Brendan McAravey, regional director, Sub-Saharan Africa at Citrix.

Welcome arrival

When looking at the local cloud space, the first thing that McAravey points to is the recent availability of Microsoft’s data centres, which is something that the industry has been baying for, for quite some time. Now that they are here, the Citrix regional director has been intrigued by the local appetite for cloud services from businesses in Southern Africa.

“There’s a lot of synergy between what we’re [Citrix SA and Microsoft] trying to do. One of the things we’re pushing is supporting what we call hybrid multicloud,” he explains.

“We know that most of our large enterprise customers have some sort of cloud focus, with many of them bringing up concerns around PoPI, and hosting outside of the country. That’s why we think the Azure data centres will make local customers more accepting of cloud, which us very excited,” McAravey enthuses.

He adds that the arrival of Azure, as well as the impending launch of Amazon’s (AWS) presence, are expected to have benefits from the company’s Citrix Cloud solution, with much of the services they delivered previous having to be on premises. As such that is no longer a concern, especially for organisations who wish to adopt a cloud-first approach.

“Where we’re going with Citrix Cloud is to say that if businesses have workloads that they’re trying to virtualise, with some sitting in Azure, some in AWS and some on-premises, you need to offer them a solution where they can interact with all the different workloads as if they’re in one platform. That’s what Citrix Cloud will be able to truly provide soon,” according to McAravey.

The rise of SD-WAN

When talking to local customers, one of the areas that he’s seeing greater potential is SD-WAN (software-defined networking in a wide area network). This especially so with clients who have a presence at various points across a region, with the country manager using bank branches as an easy example.

“Previously a bank with multiple branches would employ a network with a number of MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) connections from their location to the data centre. More recently the trend is to look for a more cost-effective solution, with SD-WAN offering that,” McAravey tells us.

He continues by explaining that what clients are looking for, is the ability to connect directly to their cloud, and consume services from there without having to “hairpin” all of the data through the data centre.

“We’re seeing customers saying actually, I want to be hosting in the cloud, I want to change the way I do my network, and I want to break out of my location,” he adds.

While SD-WAN offers a more direct channel to the cloud, McAravey is careful to note that some organisations have reservations around security. These concerns are understandable, but the Citrix exec quickly explains that solutions like Office 365 are fully encrypted, which should bring a bit more peace of mind.

“An SD-WAN device can handle routing and firewall requirements. We’ve also had some big clients do testing and discovered that it can facilitate the same process as WAN-optimisation devices. The result is that they’ve thrown out the router, firewall and WAN-optimised devices in favour of an SD-WAN setup,” he boasts.

McAravey also adds that businesses will likely take a phased approach when it comes to cloud and solutions like SD-WAN, particularly as they assess which aspects of the business operations are worthwhile spinning up into the cloud, and carry the associated cost benefits.

Cautious optimism

Casting his eye forward, McAravey has some cautious optimism about the remainder of 2019, and the years to follow. He’s well aware of the early struggles that the year held for South Africa, both on a political and economic front, which is forcing many larger organisations to be prudent when it comes to their cloud journey and hesitant to take the plunge.

That’s why in the interim he’s anticipating a positive local response to the intelligent workspace offerings that Citrix announced at its recent Synergy conference in Las Vegas, with those solutions expected to be available locally in late Q3 / early Q4 this year.

“We are looking for customers to adopt it (Workspace Intelligence). We think it’s a huge differentiator in the market,” he notes.

McAravey says so as Workspace Intelligence is designed to address the immediate concerns of the modern workplace, according to Citrix, specifically one where employees are working remotely on a range of different devices and applications, but wanting ease of access and efficiency.

“We think we can be instrumental in helping customers take that first step in significantly reducing costs, and build a far more flexible architecture for networking,” he says.

“There are some technologies out there that can help you change your business – like Azure, SD-WAN and Workspace – but the time to pull the trigger on those sort of conversations is now,” concludes McAravey.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]