IBM has been present in Africa for over 60 years. Last year, we increased presence recognizing the huge potential to transform businesses, governments, and communities with cloud, mobility, social, and big data. I’m going to give you my perspective of the enormous opportunity for transformation using Cloud for the Managed Service Provider (MSPs) segment in Kenya.
Kenya is emerging as a growth country due to improving economies across the continent. Kenyans that left the country 10+ years ago are coming back due to improved political situations and less corruption. As they come back, they are bringing their “Western” tastes, expectations, and money with them. The IMF is starting to invest more driving increased development projects around Kenya, particularly in improving transportation and infrastructure. Telcos have always had a large presence, but with submarine cable lines being deployed between Europe and Africa, this will dramatically improve connectivity across the entire continent. Kenyans value the education system and are skilling up their people to ready them for IT jobs. New industry jobs in oil and gas are being created thanks to oil discovery in Kenya. Retail banking is growing thanks to the large population with mobile devices but no actual bank account.
These small and medium sized businesses in Kenya are not looking to do IT on their own. They want to focus on their core business and are looking for service providers to handle the management of their IT and apps for them such as desktop, storage, email, accounting, ERP, and even HR processes like employee onboarding. At the same time, traditional IT departments and vendors are looking at how they can serve that market, reduce capex and drive new streams of revenue while innovating and delivering IT projects on time and on budget for the business.
The Rise of MSPs in Kenya
The marriage of offloading non-core functions like IT and driving new revenue streams gives rise to managed service providers in Kenya. A few MSP models emerge in my head here for Kenyans:
- The Emerging MSP: Existing service providers or IT departments looking to expand their ecosystem and offer new services out to small and medium businesses. They can either host the infrastructure or have it hosted somewhere outside their enterprise. These guys may be an existing service provider branching out with additional services or they may be non-traditional like banks, insurance, governments, and retail organizations looking to innovate with new business models in the Kenyan market.
- The ISV MSP: ISVs looking to partner with a MSP to host their application on the cloud to generate new revenue streams and reach new markets.
- The White Labeler MSP: Resellers looking to become an MSP can take advantage of the cloud by simply white labeling a SaaS application like email or Enterprise Market Management . In this model, the app does not belong to the MSP – it’s another vendor’s app – and the MSP is not hosting the app. It’s hosted by another vendor.
In any of these cases, these model requires at a minimum, a data center with robust infrastructure that can handle SLAs, scalability, availability, reliability, usage / metering / billing of services, monitoring of physical and virtual systems and applications, and of course storage.
IBM SmartCloud Solutions for MSPs
IBM has a set of SmartCloud offerings to help these MSPs leverage cloud computing for establishing and growing their MSP business.
- For the Emerging MSP, IBM provides a set of hardware, such as IBM PureFlex, Power, and System x, as well as software such as storage, network, monitoring, desktop, mobile device management, and virtual servers as a service.
- For the ISV MSP, IBM can host the application or facilitate a relationship with one of it’s partners to get the application hosted on our partner’s cloud
- For the White Labeler MSP, IBM offers cloud business solutions such as our enterprise market management and analytics.
Below our SmartCloud capabilities that MSPs can take advantage of. IBM SmartCloud offerings are based on an open, extensible, and flexible architecture leveraging OpenStack at the core. The nice thing is that an MSP can start small with something like storage and easily expand with additional capabilities like managed security or managed network, even establishing dev / test clouds for their clients. The offerings can be acquired on a monthly rental basis for those MSPs that don’t have the upfront capital investment.
It’s a Journey
While all of this sounds optimistic (… ok here comes Debbie Downer …), the widespread use of cloud will not happen overnight in Kenya. It’s a journey. But it’s a journey that they’ve we’ve already started together. I’m amazed and awed about what I saw, what I heard and the hunger for growth and transformation.
I can’t leave this blog post without mentioning the IBM Kenya Innovation Lab. When (not IF) you have the chance to go to Kenya, please stop by. There are Smarter Cities demos to see, education happening, and briefings on IBM cloud solutions for MSPs running on the next generation platform – PureSystems.
I also can’t end this blog without saying that there were some things that I could have done without … such as puking violently after eating tainted hummus, the screaming 8 month old on the last 2 hours of a 23 hour plane venture (insert pen in eye here…) , and flight attendant yelling at me to sit down while I was trying to get my laptop to write this blog.
I’m 6 hours from RDU and from seeing my family, but I’m already thinking about my next trip back to Kenya.
- Janine Sneed