Home Africa and the Middle EastAfrica and the Middle East 2014 XaaS: Xasperating and Xaggerated or Xpansive and Xciting?

XaaS: Xasperating and Xaggerated or Xpansive and Xciting?

by Administrator
Simon CarpenterIssue:Africa and the Middle East 2014
Article no.:9
Topic:Xaas: Xasperating and Xaggerated or Xpansive and Xciting?
Author:Simon Carpenter
Title:Chief Customer Officer, Africa
PDF size:187KB

About author

Simon Carpenter has had 32 years of experience in the IT sector. He has spent the last 20 years with SAP’s African business where he has held a number of leadership positions. In the course of his career with SAP, Simon has worked predominantly in the area of operations and logistics solutions. He has broad experience having worked in sales, marketing, support management, project management, and systems development. He thus has good insight into the soft issues (such as change management) that must be addressed for any technological initiative to be successful.

Article abstract

The potential for XaaS (Everything or Anything as a Service) in Africa is enormous.

Areas like healthcare, agriculture and public services we are already seeing the emergence of very focused XaaS services – for example helping TB patients to ensure they take their medication correctly, or alerting farmers to optimal weather conditions or even helping micro-businesses, such as a rural tuck-shop owner, to manage and order stock without having to make the long, expensive journey into town.

XaaS is not only here to stay; its growth is going to explode into every facet of our lives and organisations.

Full Article

Services, services, everywhere; And all the earth did shrink – (with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge).

Take a moment to reflect on some of the changes in your personal life and how you, the consumer, create information.

You no longer have to buy a CD to listen to music; you simply download the files from a service like iTunes or stream it from a service like Spotify, Napster or Soundcloud. And when did you last go into a bank and stand in a queue to deal with your money? You do it online, with or without an app.

You no longer need to stand in a queue to check in at the airport, you check-in online, download your boarding card and flash your smartphone at security. And when did you last lick a stamp and send someone a letter? Want to share your holiday experience with friends and family? You upload your photos in real-time using Facebook, or WhatsApp or Twitter or whatever social network you participate in. Want to send money to a relative in Samburu County, Kenya? You don’t even need a smartphone – you can do it on your feature phone using MPesa. Want to check whether that expensive prescription drug the pharmacist in Accra is about to sell you is counterfeit? Do it while you’re at the counter using MPedigree, an SMS-based pharmaceutical authentication service invented by a 28 year old Ghanaian.

And I’m willing to bet that when you go to check on where Samburu County is you’re highly likely to use a service like Google Maps or Google Earth

These are all examples of the useful services that have become part of the fabric of our lives. We may not think about them much and tend to take them for granted as part of post-industrial society, but, they are vivid manifestations of the digitisation of our world; of the shift from physical artefacts built from atoms to digital services based on bits.

There are many more examples than those cited above and, while the early winners have been strongly focused on consumers, the business world is fast waking up to the transformational opportunities and new revenue streams that can be realised from digital services.

We are on the threshold of a new wave of services, one that has led to the coining of the acronym XaaS.

XaaS (aka Everything or Anything as a Service) stands for nothing more than the fact that an ever-growing slew of these digital capabilities, (business, public sector and consumer oriented) can be delivered to anyone, anywhere, on any device across the Internet from someone else’s data centre.

In essence you can think of XaaS as a ‘superset’ of the cloud delivery models we are already familiar with – Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – as well as those that are yet to emerge.

XaaS is made possible by what Gartner Group calls the “nexus of forces” or the coming together of the following factors:

• Smart mobile devices (and not just phones) that are exploding into the “Web of Things” and making both consumption and creation of information easier.
• Cloud computing (made possible by affordable broadband along with the Internet, World Wide Web, scalable computing and standard Application Programming Interfaces).
• In-memory computing (giving us the ability to process vast amounts of data and handle huge numbers of concurrent users).
• Advances in Materials Science which is enabling new levels of miniaturisation and concepts such as inexpensive RFID and 3D printing – fuelling the Internet of Things and Big Data.

Taken together these technology advances are being synthesised by innovators into new value-creating services (which may or may not be directly monetised). In the business sphere some of the best opportunities for XaaS will arise by augmenting the operation of physical objects and operations with digital capabilities.

A great example of XaaS is Pirelli’s tyre monitoring service. By embedding sensors in truck tyres and then monitoring them in real time via a truck’s on-board telemetry, Pirelli is able, in real time, to advise its fleet customers where tyres are under-inflated (such under-inflation can cause significant increases in fuel consumption and also lead to dangerous blowouts when the tyre overheats). This is a great way of differentiating Pirelli’s tyres from anyone else’s – and show me the fleet operator that doesn’t want to save costs and reduce emissions?

Whilst XaaS opportunities are present in every industry, they are perhaps most obvious in the Telecommunications (Telco) industry. Apart from the fact that Telcos are well equipped to deliver XaaS offerings they are intensely competitive and faced with declining average revenue per unit (ARPUs) – especially on voice. So, they are looking for innovative new services that can be monetised in such a way as to improve the customer experience and reduce churn. This extension of Telco service portfolio is equally applicable to their consumer and business customers.

Energy providers, the housing sector, and meter operators can now lease hardware and software for all processes at a fixed monthly price per meter. Through this, in 2011, Deutsche Telekom made an innovation choice that now enables it to offer a comprehensive range of services, from reading consumption data through to billing, from a single source of software.

The utilities industry-specific solution is capable of performing all key tasks, from energy data management and billing, to market communication when a customer decides to swap providers, through to six-monthly updates in line with the requirements of Germany’s Federal Network Agency.

Another contemporary example of where XaaS has become prevalent is in the financial services industry. In the past, banks and large corporations connected to each other on a point-to-point basis for the automated communication of payment instructions, remittance advices, statements and other financial data. It’s expensive and time consuming to do this and it doesn’t provide the flexibility and scale needed in today’s volatile, globalised economy.

There are innovations available today that move this integration capability into a shared, scalable, standards-compliant Cloud platform. Banks and Corporates connect only once, but to as many partners as they need to do banking business with. It faster, cheaper and more effective than the old paradigm and opens up new possibilities for a bank to analyse its data stream with a particular corporate customer and offer new services based on this insight.

Whilst the examples above all come from the developed world’s advanced economies it’s across Africa that we may see the fastest adoption of XaaS. The potential for XaaS in Africa is enormous and will be facilitated by the fact that there are very few large legacy IT investments that need to be protected and “sweated”.

In the areas of Healthcare, Agriculture and Public Services we are already beginning to see very focused XaaS services starting to emerge – for example helping TB patients to ensure they take their medication correctly, or alerting farmers to optimal weather conditions or even helping micro-businesses such as a rural tuck-shop owner to manage and order stock without having to make the long, expensive journey into town.

XaaS is not only here to stay; its growth is going to explode into every facet of our lives and organisations. As you get ready to exploit it, your biggest asset will be your imagination and creativity.

Start thinking about XaaS today’ tomorrow will be too late.

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