As African businesses start to more fully embrace the concepts behind digital transformation, opportunities are rife to overhaul legacy infrastructure and applications and replace them with more modern, innovative ones.
While fibre is continuing to expand across the continent, most companies have been leveraging mobile technologies to ensure customers have access to products and services from anywhere they have an internet connection.
Even employees are using the likes of 3G and 4G to remain connected to the organisational back-end and do more away from the office than ever.
Given how 5G is around the corner, this will accelerate only further as concepts such as edge computing and the Internet of Things become a reality for many African enterprises.
A new way of doing things
It comes down to capturing and analysing data in more efficient ways at the source instead of having to rely on cloud-based data centres to do the heavy lifting. But mobile infrastructure and the cloud form just part of the equation of what the modern African business needs to remain competitive in a digital world.
Fundamentally, these organisations require modern applications capable of unlocking the true value of the data at their disposal. This can be done not only more efficiently, but faster and using things such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and automation. Even though cynics might argue that these could result in job cuts, a significant concern given the high rate of unemployment on the continent, the reverse is true.
By automating much of the menial, administration-heavy tasks, companies are positioning employees to upskill themselves with the capabilities needed to take digital initiatives at their organisations to a new level. This reskilling of what they know and do is also dictated by how modern applications marry the best of data analysis, cloud computing, mobile usage, and an open standards approach to give significantly improved flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions.
Take Kubernetes as an example. Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform that enables the operation of an elastic Web server framework for cloud applications. Kubernetes can support data centre outsourcing to public cloud service providers or can be used for Web hosting at scale. Now that is a lot of technical jargon when it comes to the business impact.
What it boils down to is providing the platform for African businesses, irrespective its size or industry sector, to introduce an enterprise-wide cloud programme. Kubernetes assist in migrating legacy applications to what can be described as a more modern, container-based cloud environment.
Think of it as the fuel giving the digital transformation initiatives of a company the injection it needs to straddle the gap between the cloud and what it has been doing on-premise. Within that environment are a myriad of modern applications like Tanzu, Pacific, Heptio, Bitnami, and Pivotal that specialise in different aspects of the complexities behind the cloud transition. These solutions manage all the critical areas behind the cloud that companies might not be aware of.
This is where strong relationships between organisations and their technology partners become critical. After all, most businesses in a competitive landscape want to remain solely focused on maintaining growth and not be stuck in the bits and bytes of their cloud transformation. These partners can help with this management and ensure the business not only maintains its competitive advantage but harness the fundamental principles of a digital world to future-proof it as more innovative technologies and connectivity become available throughout the continent.
All told, Africa is at the cusp of an exciting new era as businesses move into a digital-ready mindset. How these companies continue to innovate and bring their own unique twist to the application environment will be a fascinating one to watch.
By Ian Jansen van Rensburg, lead technologist at VMware Africa