IBM continues to expand its cloud footprint in emerging markets, with new installations in Tunisia and Egypt, among other places.
Big Blue announced that Zitouna Bank, an Islamic bank in Tunisia, has tapped IBM for its cloud computing expertise and is using IBM systems, software and services to transform its core banking platform and develop new services for customers.
More than 50 percent of the Tunisian population does not have access to modern, reliable financial services and more than a quarter have no bank accounts at all, IBM said. Under this IBM-led project, Zitouna Bank plans to open 15 new branches per year and roll out new mobile and Internet banking services. Benefits are expected to be reduced waiting times for customers, a greater choice of banking channels and services, and services extended to the nation’s unbanked and under-banked citizens.
“Our aim is to provide a diversified portfolio of modern banking services to enterprises and individuals, and establish ourselves as a leader in Tunisian banking,” said Lasaad Jaziri, CIO for Zitouna Bank, in a statement. “IBM’s cloud capabilities will help us roll out a wider range of services and products, such as new mobile and internet banking services, while also improving efficiency of internal banking processes and reducing our operational footprint.”
Zitouna Bank has been using IBM systems and software since it was founded in 2009. IBM said the new cloud capabilities will improve Zitouna Bank’s application availability and reduce end-of-day batch processing time for daily transactions by more than 85 percent, from over 13 hours to 70 minutes.
The new cloud infrastructure is based on IBM Power Systems and other servers, IBM PowerVM virtualization software, IBM Storwize V7000 storage systems, and IBM Cloud Manager with OpenStack cloud management software. IBM Global Technology Services is providing implementation, maintenance and disaster recovery services, as well as training for the bank’s staff.
Since the bank’s inception, IBM has provided a range of solutions and services for Zitouna Bank’s IT infrastructure, including Power Systems servers; DS5000 storage systems, Tivoli Storage Manager software, unified collaboration, networking and network security, and telesurveillance for ATMs and office branches.
Meanwhile, IBM also said it is providing cloud computing expertise to 100 Egyptian software companies to help drive innovation and new cloud development skills. This is part of a collaborative agreement with the Egyptian Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), in which IBM will offer its expertise to the ISVs with the aim of boosting Egypt’s efforts to become a center of cloud computing excellence in the region.
IBM Expands Cloud Push in Emerging Markets
“The IBM initiative is an important step towards stimulating the growth of cloud computing applications, expertise, knowhow, promoting the culture, and use of ‘Applications as a Service (AAS)’ in the market, particularly in the Middle East and Africa,” said Hussein El Gereitly, CEO of ITIDA, in a statement.
While current spending on public cloud services in the country is lower than its regional peers, Egypt represents the fastest growing market across the Middle East and Africa, with 67 percent growth expected for 2014 alone, according to IDC.
The agreement is in line with ITIDA’s strategy to provide support for small and medium-size IT companies to be able to expand their offerings to new markets and help grow the Egyptian economy based on the proliferation of technology trends such as big data.
The first 20 companies to benefit from this collaboration were announced at a June 17 ceremony in Cairo. IBM will enable the creation and testing of cloud solutions in a faster and more cost-effective way. The ISVs will provide their solutions on the cloud, reaching a wider audience of clients and users with minimal capital expenditure. ITIDA will choose the remaining ISVs in groups of 20, every three months.
As part of the agreement, IBM also will train the participating software developers on how to develop and port their solutions to different IBM cloud computing platforms such as SoftLayer infrastructure and Bluemix. Bluemix is IBM’s platform as a service (PaaS) development environment built on SoftLayer to help developers quickly integrate applications and speed deployment of new cloud services, and access IBM’s developer ecosystem.
With the ability to easily combine a variety of services and APIs from across the industry to compose, test and scale custom applications, developers will be able to cut deployment time from months to minutes, IBM said. New applications and cloud services ISVs developed on Bluemix can give Egyptian ISVs the opportunity to expand their business globally by offering their applications on the IBM Cloud Marketplace.
“This project is part of our ongoing commitment to the local market,” said Amr Talaat, country general manager for IBM Egypt, in a statement. “It will enable these companies to grow without large capital costs. This is a real bonus for Egypt’s fast-growing entrepreneurial clusters, which often lack funding or physical IT infrastructure.”
These programs are examples of a set of investments that IBM is making to support IT skills development in Africa. Earlier this year, IBM announced several IT initiatives across the continent to enable the existing and future workforce to develop new analytics, cloud and data skills to enhance the continent’s economic growth and social development.
IBM also announced a $100 million investment to bring Watson and other cognitive systems to Africa to fuel development across the continent in an ambitious 10-year project.