Written by Vanessa Clark
In amongst the mobile money-powered e-commerce services, annoying but compelling mosquito smashing games, and e-learning offerings on display at DEMO Africa was a handful of quietly confident cloud computing services.
They might not have had the popular appeal of a consumer game, or the immediately obvious-to-everyone-in-the-audience benefits of a tablet-based textbook subscription service, but heads were being nodded amongst those who understand the business space.
Named as one of the DEMO Africa Lions at the end of the event, and so will shortly be winging their way to the US to present their service and meet with investors was Flowgear (www.flowgear.net), a Johannesburg, South Africa-based application integrator that links the various cloud and on-premise applications without needing additional infrastructure for easier management of all data flows.
According to the company, its set of connectors and workflow engines can drive anything from simple data imports and exports to complex decision-driven processes, and negates the need for VPNs or other infrastructure.
A slick online demonstration by founders Daniel Chilcott and JJ Milner gave the audience a taste of some of the use cases for the service when they showed how the service can merge, using a drag-and-drop dashboard, SharePoint project management information with Salesforce customer records.
Other uses include: automatic import of purchase orders; automated order updates for customers; data sharing between remote branches; unifying business intelligence data to enable reporting; enable software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors to easily provision services to their customers.
Flowgear is playing in the enterprise software space estimated by Gartner to be worth US $2.8 billion by 2015. It has received US $ 200,000 in funding to date.
Another member of the South African contingent presenting at DEMO Africa, Cape Town-based Bespoke services
Frameworkone (www.frameworkone.co.za) offers cloud-based business automation services.
The company says it specialises in bespoke enterprise system development and business process automation for small and medium businesses using cloud-based Windows Azure services.
A proprietary framework and custom-build and custom-built Visual Studio extensions enable rapid development.
Also at DEMO Africa, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania-based Rasello (www.rasello.com) is a consumer analytics, management and communications platform for SMEs that aims to help businesses maximize customer retention and improve customer loyalty.
The service takes cloud-based customer data, including gender, location, and occupation and so on, and uses the information to generate segmented customer reports. This in turn allows businesses to better customize communications to each group.
The company wants to capture 0.5 percent of the EMEA SME market – this equates to in excess of 110,000 businesses out of a total base of 22 million businesses.
According to Jamaaludeen Khan, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cape Town-based social media and cloud computing agency Procliviti (www.procliviti.net), while initially the update of cloud services has been relatively slow in South Africa, it is speeding up.
He said: “SA companies are less frequently asking ‘if’ they should adopt cloud computing, and more frequently asking ‘how’ they should adopt it.”
While the benefits for companies include increased productivity, improved collaboration, driving innovation, better focus on their core business and reduced IT costs, Khan says companies are also concerned about security, data sovereignty and bandwidth costs.
Top of their list of concerns around cloud computing is security, but companies are starting to have their fears allayed thanks to more secure services being introduced to the market, improved codes of conduct and , said Khan: “More and more businesses realised that cloud computing is either more secure than, or just as secure as, on-premise solutions.”
So from micro-businesses who might not even realise they are dabbling in the cloud when setting up email and web services using Google Apps, to more advanced companies looking to the cloud to improve the way they do business in order to steal the march on their competition, cloud-based computing and services are making in-roads in both South Africa and the rest of the continent.