James Stevenson, CitrixJames Stevenson, Citrix

About 15 years ago, in the midst of the PC era, when a company designed its PC architecture, there were assumptions that employees would be based in the office and use application suites and devices that were chosen by companies, and on a fixed, wired network.

However, , VP at Citrix, UK, Ireland and SA, says there is a shift from the traditional PC era to a cloud-enabled mobile computing age.

This era of change, driven mainly through the consumerisation of IT, began about four years ago, with users dabbling with various technologies, like desktop virtualisation, and the launch of the , forcing companies to think and act differently, he notes.

“There’s a lot of technology change driving innovation lately; the availability of WiFi and 3G brought change, and suddenly mobility became a possibility.”

There are other drives by individuals, he says, not only about choice of devices, but how they want it to work. Initially, there was much resistance, but companies are starting to realise there are better ways to work.

Stevenson says as we approach the cloud era, exceptions to the PC environment (such as laptop use and receiving e-mail outside of the office), are becoming too expensive to manage, and therein lie the assumptions of the cloud, enabling users to be mobile, using WiFi to connect, and continuing to work outside of the office. The cloud era also allows users to use micro-applications rather than application suites like Office, where companies would have to pay for the whole package, even though most only use certain applications.

However, for enterprises, cloud computing is still a vision. Consumers are likely exploiting it because it allows them to move their own data freely, unlike enterprises that have to worry about governmental and legal regulations.

Many consumers use cloud computing even if they don’t know it yet, Stevenson says. Some of the popular cloud services that are widely used are iCloud and DropBox, but they are not promoted as cloud services.

Companies worry more about where their data is stored than consumers. “We also see small and medium businesses in other parts of the world adopting cloud technologies early for the same reason, because they don’t have the same government and legal requirements as the larger organisations,” Stevenson says.

Large enterprises are moving into the cloud slowly, he explains. They start using cloud computing technologies for new things, and when they do start migrating, it is the easy things that migrate first.

“What we are seeing now is enterprises are starting to realise that they should only manage the things they need to. Enterprises should focus on managing data and application access, not the user’s device; the device is an enabling technology that enables the user to access the data. The data is what enterprises have their regulatory laws around, not usually the device.”

Regarding SA’s cloud adoption, Stevenson says: “There are limitations in SA that are slowly being overcome; the Internet connection has lots of limitations. There’s a massive desire on the African continent as a whole for faster connectivity.”

He says: “Citrix has a range of cloud services that we deliver ourselves from our own data centres. We have not seen the technology uptake here in SA being as big as in the rest of the English-speaking world. The reason for that is slow connectivity, and we didn’t have a data centre in the country, so there was a concern whether connectivity would meet the needs.”

According to Stevenson, SA is not in a vastly different place in terms of cloud computing adoption when compared to the rest of the world in terms of timeline.

“I think South Africa is probably in a different place in things like ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD). I’m not seeing the same level of interest and drive in the country for BYOD,” he says.

The reason for this is mostly cultural, Stevenson believes. The mobile infrastructure in SA is there, and 3G and WiFi are accessible. While many companies in the UK are also opposed to BYOD and remote working, Stevenson says there seems to be a wider reaching management culture here in SA.

Most issues regarding cloud computing have been dealt with, he notes, and the technology is there to ensure the storage of data in cloud computing is secure. “I don’t think that it’s entirely 100%, but the technology is there to do it, it may just take time. Citrix has a product in place that will allow our customers to choose where they want to put their data and will not have to worry about , as it is built into the cloud.”