Ostensibly, the government’s recently published Draft National Data and Cloud Policy aims to ‘accelerate interventions focusing on unlocking investment opportunities’ and to ‘put in place a conducive and enabling environment for the data ecosystem to thrive’. But upon closer inspection it looks to introduce regulatory practices that can be seen as primarily targeting the multinational hyperscalers operating in the country.
The document suggests that there are not enough local providers that are able to compete with the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). There is also an undercurrent of anti-competitive messaging when referring to the international offerings available. However, this does not account for the variety of services these hyperscalers deliver at different price points. Simply put, there can be no argument for unfair business practices if these solutions are available to every organisation in the country at reasonable rates.
One must remember that these are massive global organisations, delivering services to millions of companies around the world. These businesses use them out of choice and not because they are forced to.
In South Africa, there is also no need to compete with these hyperscalers at their level.
The market is big enough to harness the opportunities in delivering cloud computing solutions. In fact, local service providers can do better than the hyperscalers, when it comes to providing tailored services to customers and focus on creating a better user experience on top of the technology infrastructure.
In the proposed policy, the argument is made that cloud providers make it difficult for companies to move applications and workloads between different environments. And while it might not be as user friendly as it can be, the portability of workloads between clouds is certainly possible. There are a myriad of tools available that enable this. For example, VMware allows a customer to create a cluster on-premise using its own infrastructure and scale to the likes of AWS, Azure, and GCP.
And while this is a paid-for feature, there are many other solutions to choose from that do the same thing in assisting with the transition of workloads between different on-premise and cloud environments. What this document fails to recognise is that local companies are using these public cloud environments out of choice. The strengths of local service providers must come in at the level and quality of service and support delivered.
Furthermore, the multinational hyperscalers are greatly aiding in South African skills development. Having their presence in the country means we can keep many of the skills here instead of having them move overseas. These companies are global for a reason. First World countries rely on their services because they are critical in a digital world.
Ultimately, these are three separate companies operating independently from one another offering different solutions. They are building infrastructure here, employing South Africans, and enhancing our skills for the requirements of a digitally transformed environment. So, perhaps before trying to limit them, the focus should turn to creating more affordable connectivity for all South Africans, more effectively delivering e-government services to citizens, and the like before taking on the public cloud.
Joshua Grunewald, Cloud Hosting Manager at Saicom