How Businesses Are Adopting Cloud-Based Services in Africa

February 16, 2015 • Cloud Computing, Regions

The conversation around cloud computing has shifted. It’s no longer just a delivery system for IT services. Cloud computing is seen everywhere as a growth engine for business.

As a matter of fact, about 90% of Fortune 500 companies are shifting to cloud-based solutions, thus allowing them to focus on their core business, instead of investing their time and money heavily on physical hardware infrastructure.

As the world is gradually transitioning into the cloud computing phase, it has become essential for big companies and small-medium businesses in Africa to follow the growing trend.

But it’s not just a growing trend. It is the future of business success, as deploying your business’ IT infrastructure on the cloud provides a robust, reliable and highly scalable infrastructure for your business to thrive on.

In Africa, the financial services sector has become a key target for cloud computing services, since performance and customer service are both critical to the growth and success of the banks.

Thus, there’s a growing focus on building a more flexible, efficient and robust IT infrastructure, since it has become needless to purchase expensive servers for employees’ mail services or large storage units to maintain backups for customer data.

As a result, banks have been able to focus on their core business, significantly minimise their operational costs and increase their business productivity.

One of the banks that has successfully deployed cloud-based solutions in Africa is the National Bank of Egypt, the oldest bank in Egypt.

Founded in 1898 and headquartered in Cairo, the National Bank of Egypt is a commercial bank that provides a traditional range of financial products and services to nearly three million retail and corporate customers around the world.

The National Bank of Egypt. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The bank also acts as the country’s Central Bank, and as such offers funding programmes, stabilizes the foreign-exchange market and supports state policies. To date, the National Bank of Egypt operates more than 400 branches and has international offices in New York, the United Kingdom, Shanghai, Johannesburg the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia.

Due to its large business need, the Bank sought out to deploy its core banking application on the cloud so as to increase performance and also provide a high level of security for its IT infrastructure.

Moving to the cloud

The National Bank of Egypt (NBE) wanted to move its core banking application from its existing infrastructure to a system-based environment running on a robust, reliable and highly available infrastructure and at the same time include security measures on every system, an issue that had posed a major challenge for such a large bank in the past.

Therefore, the National Bank Of Egypt engaged with IBM Systems Lab Services and Training and Intercom Enterprise — an IBM Premier Business Partner. Together they came up with a new and better infrastructure to migrate NBE’s core banking application to the platform in several phases. Both hardware and software solutions were used by IBM in the pursuit of migration of NBE’s operation to the cloud.

IBM Systems Lab Services designed a solution consisting of IBM Power Systems servers; IBM PowerHA, IBM PowerVM and IBM PowerSC technology; and IBM Systems Director and IBM SmartCloud Entry Solution for Power software while Intercom Enterprise provided project management services for the entire implementation to ensure a smooth transition.

The IBM SmartCloud Entry Solution for Power software is a private cloud solution that runs on your infrastructure in the privacy of your data center. It is a cross-platform, multi-platform cloud solution that makes creating, using, and managing cloud resources easy, hence the name ‘entry solution’.

The migration had to be carried out in phases so as to slowly integrate the banking application and not interrupt daily operations at the bank. First, NBE implemented three IBM Power 795 servers running the IBM AIX Enterprise Edition V7 operating system.

Two IBM Power Systems servers at the main site supported the bank’s production applications. The other server, located at the bank’s disaster-recovery site, acted as a fail safe and supported NBE’s development and testing environments and, in the case of an outage, operates as a failover server.

The IBM PowerHA server ensured high availability among the three servers across two sites. The IBM server was responsible for detecting failures in the system and automatically triggers failover to the secondary server at the main site, then to the third server at the disaster-recovery site.

The IBM PowerSC server, which was also used by NBE is a security and compliance solution specified for use within virtualized environments. With this solution, the bank only had to implement the software once on the server system and after that, the bank can modify one of the technology’s many templates to address its needs and deploy it in a few seconds on all of the systems in the environment.

Also, the bank uses the PowerSC technology’s monitoring capabilities to maintain security standards in its operations.

Solution proved viable

As a result of its partnership with IBM, the National Bank of Egypt successfully migrated its core banking application to a robust and reliable infrastructure and achieved more than 99 percent availability in its production environment.

With the new and flexible environment, the bank was able to handle expansions and fluctuating workloads in the future. Apart from that, by using PowerHA technology, the bank gained the ability to dynamically and seamlessly redistribute resources in the event of a disaster.

Photo Credit: Al-Borsa

Also, with the PowerSC technology, NBE can deploy security standards in newly created workloads in less than five minutes, a task which usually took weeks to complete before deploying the solution. This technology also enables the bank to monitor and ensure the security compliance of the workloads, thereby saving the bank money it previously paid third parties to perform regular security-compliance checks.

Lastly, using the SmartCloud software, the bank gained a private cloud and the ability to automatically provide workloads to multiple departments within the bank with minimal time and effort. Previously, it took months to approve and reallocate resources.

The private cloud solution also enables teams to perform tasks through a centralized portal, saving the National Bank of Egypt time, effort and money. Overall, it was a much-needed overhaul of the 116-year-old bank’s existing IT infrastructure and further demonstrated how IBM is making innovation happen in Africa through its solutions.

With this example, amongst others, it is expected that business and IT leaders in Africa would be making the decision to move their IT infrastructure to the cloud in order to support business processes and growth in the future.

By Yomi Eluwande


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