What are the benefits of using cloud computing for data transfer, storage and processing in industries such as mining?
The availability of cloud computing, cloud-based data storage at attractive prices, robust security and geographically distributed data centres has made it a no-brainer to consider in comparison with in-house data centres.
This represents essentially a shift of the associated IT responsibilities for backup, provisioning, security, etc. to the cloud providers. Not only does this reduce the cost of those services, the standardised, high-quality service is a definite upside. Lastly, the use of cloud services represents an OPEX expense which is essentially better than a standard capital expense.
Should all miners be considering using cloud computing?
All companies of all sizes, and in all industries, should strongly consider cloud computing as it represents a reduction of cost, standardisation of services, scalability options at low-capital outlay and much higher security than otherwise possible.
Tell me about Anglo American's digitalisation strategy and the role that cloud computing will play in it.
We are embarking on a strategy to digitise our mines and help our operations run more efficiently. To this extent, we will ingest large volumes of data and perform various manipulations of data such as simulations and data science.
To facilitate this, the cloud platform is an ideal choice. We have access to higher level services from these cloud providers (these are called PaaS services) and these allow for us to accelerate the delivery of our solutions at a lower price point.
Which areas of your business have seen the greatest benefit so far?
Our digital strategy is getting underway and we are seeing benefits in this across the value chain from processing, maintenance to commodity sales. There is not a specific challenge that has been solved through cloud computing; the scalability and efficiency provided by the cloud is what makes it attractive.
Ultimately, the cloud plays a critical role in our success. For example, it provides us a handle on security by leveraging the services provided to us by the cloud providers; or, scalable storage, without having to pay for expensive servers.
Which platforms does Anglo American use for cloud applications? Have you come across any issues with data transfer between platforms?
Anglo American has standardised on a single cloud platform, with an intent to centralise our operations. As such we do not necessarily transfer data between cloud platforms. In general, there are issues with underlying network performance, and while that cannot be eliminated, it can be reduced by using some of the newer edge-computing services provided by the cloud companies.
What role can cloud play in helping miners to take their businesses to the next level?
While it is obvious that the cloud is the way to go, I think the key point here is two-fold. One is to realise that the core value of mining companies is in running the mining business. To this extent, outsourcing non-core services such as basic IT work to cloud companies represents a way to focus on what is critical to them.
Secondly, the price of computing and services is so affordable, it provides an opportunity to take a risk with new ideas and experiment with a fail-fast approach. This allows ideas to be tried and tested without exposing a lot of capital, and as long as projects are selected carefully, this represents a significant upside.