Travelling to the cloud
Cross-country passenger bus services are moving to locally hosted, international cloud providers as a means to improve customer service and keep potential disruptors at bay.
When lockdown began, all industries suffered, but some were impacted even more than others. Much like travel and tourism, the transport industry in general – and the cross-country passenger bus services in particular – struggled to survive. Having been unable to operate at all for a period, this meant their customers and the need to keep them happy became even more important, because these businesses certainly wanted their clients to return in droves once the lockdown ended.
The forward-thinking ones have been investing in customer-facing applications as well as internal IT workloads, such as their core platform for information management, online ticketing, storage, analytics and other services.
Stone He, President, Huawei Cloud (Southern Africa), points out it is no surprise to discover that these companies are determined to continuously improve their end-user experience and provide travellers with more real-time information.
“A critical foundation for doing so is cloud computing, which is why an increasing number were already shifting to the cloud even before the pandemic struck. During lockdown, cloud proved critical in making sure their business and production systems could continue to run without any impact,” he says.
“These organisations prioritised the development and consolidation of hybrid workloads, not only for the customer-facing systems, but also for their internal IT systems. Many are now searching for more agile, resilient and cost-effective cloud services to replace their current service providers or eliminate the need to host their own data centres.”
Another key advantage of the cloud is that it helps them overcome scalability challenges related to the processing and analysis of their data, he adds. For businesses that deal with multiple national routes, thousands of passengers and any number of destinations, the sheer volume of data that needs to be processed is enormous.
“This is why these entities need a world-class cloud provider that offers local hosting and more cost-efficient solutions to support their businesses.”
Some key challenges a move to a locally hosted, international cloud provider can help to solve, adds He, include: significant cost reductions; access to local support services and a dedicated local cloud team; and a reduction in operational complexity.
“It goes without saying that any such move would require a seamless migration, since these businesses – like in most other sectors – simply cannot afford to have their production workloads go down during a migration.”
Asked what sort of benefits such businesses would glean from a move to a locally sited cloud data centre, He suggests it would enable access to real-time travel status updates and the opportunity to suggest alternative routes if things do go awry. Most vitally, it would allow head office to easily communicate with staff on the ground, who would have a full view of the situation. Furthermore, they can leverage the cloud to provide greater safety, thanks to real-time vehicle diagnostics, not to mention keeping track of passenger counts and, ultimately, being able to effectively deploy resources when responding to the needs of the business.
“The days of maintaining and replacing on-premises servers at Intercape are over and the decision to move our production servers to cloud was made in March 2020," says Karl Rosch, IT Manager at Intercape. He continued: “After investigating various platforms, the decision was made to move to Huawei Cloud and the cost and reliability of Huawei Cloud made it a very attractive offering."
Rosch also found that the transition to Huawei Cloud was seamless with the local support from a Huawei engineer who assisted with the set-up and migration project. “After more than a year on the Huawei platform, the uptime has been excellent and support from the Huawei team has been outstanding,” said Rosch.
“The transnational transport sector is already being impacted by new disruptors like Uber, albeit that these are not direct competition yet, but these companies still need to offer the flexibility that customers exposed to ride-sharing apps have come to expect. This means a move away from the rigid approaches to timetables and scheduling of the past. The flexibility and scalability of the cloud will be a huge benefit with regard to how they manage their operations and approach their customers moving forward,” explains He. “What’s more, only the cloud can provide a genuine foundation to ensure easy adoption of future technology advances, particularly around machine learning and the Internet of things. Thanks to the cloud, these digital technologies can be quickly deployed, enabling these organisations to not only keep their future innovations on track, but also any potential disruptors at bay,” He concluded.