Kenya: Angani turns talk into business as the transition to the Cloud begins to take wing

14 December 2018

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There was a time when if you could have had US$100 for every time there was a mention of the cloud at a conference, you would have been a very rich man. But it was largely talk rather than walk. Russell Southwood talks Riyaz Bachani, CEO, Angani about how talk is finally turning into business.

Cloud provider Angani was launched as a start-up in 2014 and Bachani was bought in to restructure things and run the company in 2016. He says that it was launched “to fill the gap in providing reliable hosting infrastructure, starting in Nairobi but then across the continent:”With infrastructure and mutualisation we can provide for failure across the different elements.”

The basic pitch is that any company using its range of services in the cloud will not need CAPEX for servers and other IT equipment:”You can lease capacity from us. Capacity can go up and down. It saves cost and headaches. We run all the standard business apps including SAP, Oracle Systems, Quickbooks and Sage. Not all businesses need cloud for infrastructure. Others need things like back-up and disaster recovery”.

There are also other popular productivity solutions like hosted PABX and mobility:”CFOs want to have access to the Cloud because (their staff) have to do accounting reports from multiple locations or anywhere.” So it makes its money through managed services and giving consulting advice to clients on how best to migrate to the cloud and on disaster recovery and ERP design.

The clients include “a couple of banks, a number of financial institutions, including SACCOs, insurance companies and microfinance organizations. There are also a whole range of companies including SMEs, hotels, manufacturing, and media houses. We partner a lot with service providers including ISPs and fibre service providers giving them similar services. We also work with the solutions providers. The guys who used to sell hardware are now going into the Cloud.”

Angani is present in two data centres, one in Nairobi and the other in Mombasa. Outside Kenya, it is present in Tanzania and Rwanda and has plans to roll out in Uganda:”Each data centre has several racks for our Cloud optimized services. These are high density racks and the cloud platform virtualizes for customers on an online dashboard.”

So how easy is it providing rock solid fibre connections from the client to the servers?:”Multiple ISPs are providing redundant capacity. We have gigabit fibre connecting the sites together and we don’t charge the customers for the local gigabit connectivity anywhere in Kenya.”

The transition to working in the Cloud is clearly under way but how long will it be before it becomes an everyday occurrence?:”Three years ago there was a general distrust of the Cloud. People would say: can you prove security? Can you prove the connectivity works? Two years ago CEOs said they would be moving to the Cloud but they were uncertain about how. Now all businesses are actually moving their services to the cloud. It’s usually authentication, email and critical apps.”

“One of our customers is a bank and it hosts a key marketing campaign on our platform, enabling it to handle a huge amount of traffic. We’ve also seen other companies who need both network and service capacity to handle huge volumes of traffic. We had a pharmacy chain who we helped sort out their connectivity in this way.”

So who are its competitors?:”There’s the hyper-scale providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google. Locally there are also providers getting into the Cloud space, like Liquid Telecom with its Microsoft partnership”.

“What sets us apart is that we’ve always been a Cloud player. It’s all we do. We’ve managed to perfect the process of getting businesses on to the cloud. That’s our key strength. We understand how to run things on the Cloud. The hyper-scale providers are not present here and that makes it difficult for those just getting into the market.

Nevertheless challenges remain:”The biggest challenge for the Cloud locally is getting valuable, high capacity connectivity to the Cloud. Most ISPs and providers are still selling bandwidth packages more suitable for branch connectivity (1-2 mbps) rather than the 20-100 mbps needed for cloud connectivity”.

“We can provide customers with VPN connections and negotiate with fibre providers to get better rates with scale. One provider gives us 100 mbps links at a very good price.”


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