SAP to provide cloud services from locally-hosted datacentre

It seems everyone and his dog is launching cloud-based products and services these days.

SAP is the latest company join the party, announcing the launch of its HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) at a launch in Johannesburg today.

HEC’s significance has more to do with the fact that it’s going to be provided by a local datacentre, one built and administered by Dimension Data, SAP’s partner on the rollout. We were told that there are two datacentre sites – a primary site in Randview, and a disaster recovery site in Parkview, both in Gauteng.

HEC is, in simple terms, a cloud solution offering various SAP business services, aimed at South African enterprises who have need of cloud services, but who aren’t interested in making use of internationally-hosted ones, or can’t for various reasons.

Microsoft’s Azure cloud solution, by comparison, offers a large number of cloud-based services but the closest Azure datacentre to South Africa is in Europe, making SAP’s HEC offering quite appealing for local businesses who need cloud services delivered without the high latency of Africa/Europe round trips.

The benefit of local hosting, we were told at the launch event, is that latency – network responsiveness, in other words – is up to 20 times better. Extrapolating that, if a network packet sent to a European datacentre takes 300ms to do the round trip, the equivalent local trip could be over in as few as 15ms. This is brilliant news to local businesses tired of sluggish network performance when making use of the cloud.

Guy Armstrong, the vice president of HEC sales at SAP EMEA, also mentioned data sovereignty – the idea that data is subject to the laws of the country it’s stored in – as a further benefit. Basically, it’s far easier to comply with South African legislation when your data is hosted in South Africa.

At the launch, BMI’s Clinton Jacobs spoke about the state of Cloud in South Africa, citing a whopping 20 000 square metres of unutilised datacentre space and the growth in the cloud market in 2015 of 29%, bringing its total value to R2.6bn, as reasons for South Africa being incredibly “cloud ready” at the moment.

He also said that the South African cloud market is expected to grow substantially in the near future, reaching a value of around R6.4 billion by 2020 thanks to expected compounded annual growth of 20%.

Jacobs talked up the benefits of the cloud – that it offers a subscription-based pricing structure, that businesses don’t have to provision their own hardware in order to deploy new services (turning capital expenditure into operating expenditure in the process) and the fact that companies can self-service without having to go through an actual person, and that services can be scaled up and down as needed.

In a nutshell, cloud offers the kind of flexibility and agility that allows businesses to re-tool and respond to ever-changing market conditions, and now SAP’s HANA Enterprise Cloud is available to South African businesses as of right now via a datacentre hosted within the country’s borders.