The evolution of enterprise internet connectivity has been an interesting topic since the early nineties in South Africa. Back then the main focus for internet connectivity was for email, hosting your corporate website and ensuring employees could access basic online resources (specifically for research). Africa also had the highest cost of internet connectivity in the world. South Africa was no exception and there were a few reasons for this.
Firstly, Africa as a continent had the smallest footprint of undersea cabling to the rest of the world making it a hot commodity that came with a considerable premium. Secondly, connectivity nationally was controlled by a single entity allowing for no competition. Lastly, South Africa had stringent electronic communication laws that prohibited growth.
Connectivity started getting better in the late 2000s with multiple undersea cables landing between 2009 to 2012. Laws also started relaxing around electronic communications. The first carrier-neutral data centers were built across the country giving enterprises the choice of where to host internal and external services without being tied into an internet service provider. These were the main drivers for competition and cost reduction which were realized at enterprise and consumer level.
Enterprises now had higher demand for internet services as more and more business-critical functions became electronic. There was also a requirement for these services to be available anywhere. Enter Cloud instances and hybrid architectures which were already being widely adopted across the rest of the world. Our problem was still internet connectivity as these architectures required larger internet throughput and we were still playing catch up in this space. We had better connectivity to the rest of the world but our national infrastructure was still outdated while we raced to catch up with national fiber rollouts.
Fast forward to today and we now have a strong national fiber footprint and internet pricing continues to drop. This is good news for many services’ dependent on internet connectivity as well as the Enterprises who want to use them. We also have additional undersea cables landing in the next two years which hopefully keeps driving the pricing down.
So where is the internet going next? The fiber is in the ground and the international connectivity to the world is ramping up with requirement. Surely, we are comfortable? In this area, I am never comfortable as requirements change and we should be ready. Here are some of the things that I think will affect South Africa’s internet in the next 5 years.
SD-WAN will be heavily adopted for its flexibility and cost savings. MPLS is a great way to connect your Enterprise sites. SD-WAN does it better and gives you more control. Research this as not all SD-WANs are equal and it should never be bought from an ISP. It would be no different to MPLS as the enterprise doesn’t have control. SD-WAN should be run over the internet for best cost savings.
Faster adoption of IPv6. The Internet of Things is talked about constantly and it really does sound great that my fridge will tell me I need milk. I do see it from another angle, however. Consider the impact of ten times more IP addresses being used to cater for IoT. This is practically forcing an IPv6 rollout in the next 5 years as Enterprises won’t want security devices having to translate IPv4 and lose performance.
Decisions on Internet will have an eco-friendly element. It is predicted that the largest growth of the internet will be in developing countries and I believe this to be true. Vendors hardware will need to be energy efficient and renewable energy sources will become a more prevalent way of powering Datacenter hardware. This is especially important in a country with unstable electrical supply.
The Emergence of Augmented Reality for business. While Augmented reality is currently more of an entertainment gimmick, Enterprise internet will need to cater for a new world of working with augmented reality integrated into business drivers and processes. Collaboration and Marketing will be at the forefront of developing AR applications for Enterprises.
Elon Musk also plans to have the Internet on Mars by 2030 but it will take around 24 minutes to start loading a website. That’s one small step for man, one giant leap backwards in internet connectivity!
Nick Treasure decided to step out of a Law degree to pursue his passion in IT. His parents didn’t approve. He has since worked around the world building Internet service provider networks and assisting large enterprises realise their key business drivers by architecting connectivity solutions that maximise their potential. One thing is for certain, he is very happy with his choice to move to IT.