A Cambridge University-educated mathematician is hoping to shake up South Africa’s cloud computing sector with a new, vendor-neutral cloud platform hosted in Teraco’s fast-expanding data centres.
Cape Town-born MD Andrew Cruise, who worked early on in his career in investment banking in the UK, hopes the new company, called Routed (pronounced “rooted”), will reshape the cloud services space in South Africa, appealing particularly to corporate customers that have been reluctant so far to shift internal workloads to the cloud.
Cruise, who was previously cloud engineering manager at a Cape Town-based Internet service provider, co-founded Routed last year with former colleagues Malcolm Siegel and Benjamin Coetzer. Cruise is the controlling shareholder.
Back in South Africa for the past three years, Cruise said the idea for Routed, which was launched commercially last month, first came to him when he was still in the UK. He said companies had been reluctant to shift their internal workloads to the cloud. Most big cloud vendors, he said, focus on Web-based workloads.
“The penetration into cloud of internal business workloads is still low,” he said. “In the UK, as the Internet became better quality and commoditised, there was a much bigger push from service providers and customers to move internal workloads into the cloud.”
When he returned to South Africa, the local market wasn’t ready for this shift, Cruise said. But that has now changed. “There has been massive investment in fibre infrastructure and wireless Internet. We are at the stage now where the market is prepared to take off.”
The problem is, Internet service providers “don’t really have the right kind of attitude to engage with enterprises or even manage service provider partners”, Cruise said. “There is a demand for cloud infrastructure for internal workloads, but there is a gap in that there isn’t anyone able to deliver that in a really effective way.”
That’s where the idea of vendor neutrality comes from, he said. “We don’t provide any managed or professional services on top of our cloud infrastructure. Rather, we engage with managed service providers to provide the managed services on top of the infrastructure — they are the people who will ultimately be held accountable for the choice of underlying infrastructure, whether it’s on premise or in the cloud.”
That means Routed is a channel-first business, but will engage directly with enterprises that don’t outsource their IT to third parties.
Routed won’t provide Internet infrastructure, working instead with ISPs. “We tell ISPs to keep investing in Internet and fibre. They don’t really want to be investing in enterprise storage and virtualisation, so we encourage them to cross-connect to us. We are not vertically integrated, we are not competing with our channel.”
Routed’s platform is built on top of VMware technology — specifically vCloud Director stack, which Cruise describes as “battle-hardened” technology. It employs storage from NetApp and compute from Dell and offers a 99,99% uptime service-level promise. “We are comfortable offering that.”
Its infrastructure is located in Teraco’s Cape Town and Johannesburg data centres. The facilities are not interdependent — if anything happens in one location, it doesn’t affect the other, Cruise said. However, all data is replicated between the data centres as a matter of course.
The business has been entirely self-funded to date by the founding shareholders. Capital investment is high, though, Cruise conceded. “There’s a reason there isn’t a lot of competition in this market: the high barrier to entry. One barrier is the capital required to invest in this. We are taking a relatively expensive bet on this. But our addressable market is every business in South Africa. Our scale could eventually dwarf the original investment.”
In fact, Cruise believes the opportunity is vast. He said only 5% of business workloads worldwide have moved to hyperscale cloud providers such as Amazon and Microsoft. He said these cloud providers offer highly commoditised services, and businesses often prefer to deal with cloud platforms that can provide more tailored services.
“A VMware-type cloud is targeted at enterprises and business. I don’t see that we are competing necessarily against those hyperscale providers, because of our approach and our attitude,” he said.
He added that the founding shareholders in Routed are highly experienced, and this will stand them in good stead. “This is not our first rodeo by any means. My colleagues Malcolm and Benjamin have decades of experience in providing network and cloud infrastructure.” — © 2017 NewsCentral Media