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By 18 August 2016 | Categories: interviews

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We sit down with Arun Khehar, senior vice president applications business for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Oracle to discuss the fate of the cloud.

It is not that long ago that businesses were casting a wary eye on what was then the new fangled term of cloud computing. While many were trying to come to terms with the idea of having their applications and data somewhere besides the familiar confines of their own enterprises, others were pondering whether cloud was just a fad.

Clearly, a few years has made a major difference. Arun Khehar, senior vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Oracle began by pointing out that when its cloud business began, he never would have anticipated that cloud adoption would mushroom as it has. More particularly, Khehar notes that there has been a huge wave of cloud adoption across the EMEA reason in the last couple of years, doubling almost from 27% to what is now 50%.

Growing stronger

How this growth came about is an intriguing story. “It began with the low hanging fruit, with organisations focusing on deploying applications in the cloud. Then it progressed to premise and cloud deployments coexisting for a while,” he elaborated. In the last few quarters, however, the company has seen complete agile deployments from end to end, and customers being increasingly comfortable with having a larger cloud footprint.

Khehar explained that the reason why the cloud, and cloud adoption, has grown the way it has really comes down to several factors. Trust, of course, was always a concern for enterprises, with seemingly many of the initial security fears that greeted cloud having been resolved over time. Another standard bearer for cloud’s growth has been the improvement in deployment times, with IT enterprise projects being fully implemented in between three to six months, rather than two to three years, which had become the norm in the pre-cloud world. Furthermore, only helping matters was that over time the cloud partner landscape improved.

And it doesn’t look like cloud adoption is stopping. Indeed, Khehar pointed out that smart cities, which are currently a hot topic, simply cannot be done without cloud.

Vaulting hurdles

One of the main concerns about cloud’s adoption, that of security, remains an impedance in certain sectors, with Khehar pointing out that this is still so, especially in the public sector. “However, we’ve had major meetings with CEOs and security heads and actually took them to our data centre and showed them the security Oracle had in place. There is no way that customers could have that level of security on premise, but the lack of knowing how stringently their data was protected in the cloud created uncertainty,” he elaborated.

As to what are some of the growth areas, Khehar mentions it is the full breadth of  applications that still need to catch up with the cloud era. This is so even as certain applications have enjoyed a steady migration to the cloud, with customer resource management (CRM) systems now being almost 100% on cloud. And yet, despite a great deal of time and money having been spent readying apps for the cloud, there are still laggards.

This, he explained, is due to the fact that moving apps from on-premise environments to cloud-based ones can be a big journey. Even so, he conceded that not all apps will immediately be migrated, with back office for core banking processes or core retail applications taking time, and whose migration he believes is step two in the cloud journey. “This is really a volumes game, with back office functionality, for example, taking a back seat to financial data, which is needed more urgently,” he explained.

Head in the cloud, feet on the ground

As for Oracle’s role in a cloud world, Khehar is very optimistic. “We are in the unique position that we have our own hardware, middleware, applications, dashboards, and effectively can offer all the layers of what a business needs. While we can sell individual applications, all these can work faster and better on systems that are geared towards them,” he enthused. This, he believes, gives Oracle the edge.

As for Africa as a whole, Khehar considers the outlook for cloud to be largely positive, with plenty of potential for IT to grow, as its spread is lower than that of Europe and the US markets. Additionally, he noted that here automation is sery low, and businesses aiming to tighten and strengthen their operations need to increase it.

Opportunity beckons

This only spells opportunity, particularly for the government and retail sectors, which desire to increase their automation. In the past, Khehar explained, this would have required a huge IT investment on their part. The availability of cloud computing not only mitigates against this, but also helps reduce their risk, as companies can buy cloud based resources as they need it, without having to bear a massive outlay.

As for where Africa finds itself, Khehar enthused that the region is in an unique position. “Businesses here can essentially leapfrog developed nations in an effort to catch up,” he explained. Moreover, they can enjoy the same top level apps that a major bank in a developed country does, while still having plenty of room to grow.

Finally it seems as though Africa has caught a break, with some heartening potential and abundance of opportunities to explore. Moreover, the initial concerns about cloud seem to have yielded to clarity, that indeed, cloud is far from being a fad, and will likely yield a steady stream of benefits for the foreseeable future.  

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