Pick n Pay’s bold plan to modernize infrastructure and drive efficiency is beginning to pay dividends as its migration to AWS was successfully completed last year, signaling the digital ambitions of this retail giant.

This move to the cloud lays the foundation for further expansion into other cloud-based applications to deliver deeper insights and better digital services, as well as drive cost savings for the company and the consumer.

The company’s recent trading update confirmed it would accelerate growth opportunities, such as its online offerings, and develop serverless computing with AWS so the retailer is able to rapidly scale when needed, like over Christmas or Black Friday.

The data warehousing team was the first to take its platform to the cloud and is already leveraging AWS’ suite of services and cloud-first applications, like Snowflake, for self-service analytics. And over the past 10 months, sales growth across all online platforms (scheduled, on-demand, and click-n-collect) came in at a robust 69.6% year-to-date, with on-demand year-to-date growth in excess of 100%.

Mark Tudor, Chief Information & Technology Officer, Pick n Pay

Pick n Pay

Although the new foundation promises great things in omnichannel retail for the future, the decision was in discussion for years, according to Pick n Pay CIO Mark Tudor. “Around 2019, we understood we needed to make a significant investment in our infrastructure,” he says. “We had to decide whether to invest in another five-year depreciation cycle with our partner in our existing data, or move to a hyperscaler. At the time, we decided it was better to go with a hyperscaler because we wanted the cost-effective agility this approach would provide in the coming years. We didn’t want to invest in a data center that would commit us to another five-year depreciation cycle. That was really the catalyst.”

Pick n Pay, a multiformat and multichannel retailer with 90,000 employees and an annual turnover of R97.9 billion ($5.3 billion), operates across mostly Southern Africa with stores in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Nigeria, Eswatini and Lesotho. It also owns a 49% share of the Zimbabwean supermarket chain, TM Supermarkets. So with such size and reach, the choice of a hyperscaler like AWS made sense. In the beginning, they were firmly focused on Infrastructure-as-a-Service.

“Our view on hyperscalers is that they provide near infinite capacity on demand, which is what we were looking for,” Tudor says.

Managing the migration

The actual process took 10 months and Tudor says they mostly looked at an IaaS-led migration as opposed to a platform rebuild. “Moving from an on-premise infrastructure service provider to a hyperscaler-based one was more of a partner change for our staff as opposed to anything fundamental,” he says. “Now that we’re in the cloud, there are a lot of complementary services and platforms around our infrastructure to better leverage opportunities.”

Critical to the success of the migration was AWS premier consulting partner Lemongrass, which enabled Pick n Pay to migrate its mission-critical SAP (including SAP S/4HANA) and non-SAP workloads to AWS, and provide the ability to manage these workloads with the highest levels of automation and agility.

Eamonn O’Neill, Lemongrass Consulting CTO, explained the rationale: “We typically see potential cost savings of between 45% and 75% resulting from this strategy. These are savings that can then fund initiatives, such as new offerings and tools that deliver superior retail experiences, and drive additional value for the business, such as business intelligence and automation.”

Superior cost management

One of the largest benefits of the migration has been around cost, as Pick n Pay has reduced its infrastructure spend by approximately 40% while driving up its competitiveness.

The trading report also states that the group is on-track to deliver its targeted efficiency savings for FY23 across store operations, support offices, and supply chain, and is also fully focused on delivering its target R3 billion in savings over three years.

“We needed a strategy we felt was right for us going into the future and was also cost-effective,” says Tudor. “That’s worked well for us. The complexity of managing environments in the cloud from a financial perspective is something we already had experience with from taking our data warehouse into the cloud a few years ahead of the main migration.”

In terms of environments on the ground, however, migration to AWS offers another benefit considering how South Africa grapples with the knock-on effects of an unstable power supply. While Pick n Pay spends R60 million a month on diesel for its generators to keep its stores operating through rolling blackouts, its IT infrastructure hasn’t added to this since there aren’t any data centers to manage. “With any data center, there’s the challenge of cooling and managing your utility power effectively,” says Tudor. “We haven’t had to worry about this given it now sits in the cloud. That’s been a massive added win for us.”

Lessons learned

When it comes to smaller retailers on the continent looking to implement something similar, Tudor offered some advice. ‘For smaller retailers, you’d probably do better buying a cloud solution directly as opposed to carrying infrastructure into the cloud,” he says. “Our theory is to look to SaaS first, PaaS second, and IaaS third. The economics of a service you procure from the cloud is more cost-effective with the SaaS service. For example, use Workday in the HR space rather than build your own infrastructure in your own virtualized data center in a hyperscaler. That’s how I’d approach it.” So far, Pick n Pay’s forward-thinking initiatives are having the desired effect of driving efficiencies and creating cost savings for customers. But the power crisis and other retailers innovating and posing greater competition means they can’t afford to be complacent. So leveraging the power of AWS to create new services and offerings will be crucial.

CIO, Cloud Management, IT Leadership

IT certifications can boost your career, but it’s not always easy to tell which certifications hold the most value for your resume. Moreover, pay associated with any given cert fluctuates based on business interest and the supply of IT pros who hold it. To help gauge certification values, Foote Partners tracks premiums paid for popular IT certifications in its 2022 IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index report.

The cash value of IT certifications is less volatile than that of non-certified IT skills, according to David Foote, co-founder, chief analyst, and chief research officer at Foote Partners. But certifications tend to spike in value after they’re launched and level out as more people get certified.

Foote Partners has identified the following 10 certifications as gaining the most in pay premiums and market value, based on compensation data provided by more than 4,057 private- and public-sector employers in the US and Canada. Certification premium pay value is based on the percentage of base salary accounted for by a single certification, on average.

These certifications were ranked based off their above average pay premiums and gains in cash market value in the six months leading up to October 2022.

Whether you already have one of these certifications or are planning to earn one, there’s no better time to have one of these 10 IT certifications on your resume.

1. Certified Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO I)

The Certified Professional Scrum Product Owner certification validates your knowledge of the Scrum framework and ability to help bridge communication between the business strategy and agile product management to create quality products using Scrum. Certification candidates are encouraged, but not required, to attend the Professional Scrum Product Owner course offered by Scrum.org. The course focuses on three main areas of Scrum, including understanding and applying the scrum framework, developing people and teams, and manage products with agility. The curriculum includes a mix of hands-on activities that help students get a better understanding of how Product Owners work on Scrum Teams. To earn the certification, you’ll need to pass a 60-minute exam with 80 questions that are a mix of multiple choice, multiple answer, and true or false.

Pay premium (of base salary equivalent): 13%

Market value growth: 18%

Exam fee: $200

2. PMI Program Management Professional (PgMP)

The PMI Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification is designed for program managers to validate their skills and abilities managing development processes. The exam covers topics such as strategic program management, program lifecycle, benefits management, stakeholder management, and governance. To qualify for the exam, you’ll need at least a secondary degree, 48 months of project management experience or a PMP certification, and 84 months of program management experience within the past 15 years. Alternatively, you may qualify for the exam with a four-year degree, 48 months of project management experience or a PMP certification, and 48 months of program management experience within the past 15 years.

Pay premium: 12%

Market value growth: 20%

Exam fee: $800 for members; $1,000 for non-members

3. GIAC Certified Forensics Analyst (GCFA)

The GIAC Certified Forensics Analyst (GCFA) certification is designed for incident response team members, threat hunters, SOC analysts, experienced digital forensic analysts, information security professionals, federal agents and law enforcement professionals, and penetration testers. The exam covers topics including advance incidence response and digital forensics, memory forensics, timeline analysis, anti-forensics detection, threat hunting, and APT intrusion incident response.

Pay premium: 12%

Market value growth: 9%

Exam fee: $949

4. Information System Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP/CISSP)

The Information System Security Engineering Professional certification is offered by the International Information Security Certification Consortium (ISC) as a concentration certification under the CISSP certification scheme. It was developed by the ISC alongside the US National Security Agency to acknowledge “those who specialize in the practical application of systems engineering principles and processes to build secure systems.” It’s designed as a companion certification for CISSP holders to validate their knowledge as it applies to engineering. The certification is designed for senior systems engineers, information assurance systems engineers, information assurance offices, information assurance analysts, and senior security analysts.

Pay premium: 12%

Market value growth: 9%

Exam fee: $599

5. Okta Certified Developer

The Okta Certified Developer certification is designed for developers working with APIs and responsible for developing web applications. The certification validates your ability to build secure, seamless user experiences using Okta APIs and SKDs. Candidates for the exam should have a strong understanding of authentication and authorization standards, which includes OpenID Connect (OIDC) and OAuth. You should also have experience with configuring authorization with API Access Management and implementing Single Sign-On (SSO) with OIDC, among other topics. The online exam consists of two parts: Part one is a 60-minute exam that includes 45 discrete option multiple choice (DOMC) and part two is a 90-minute exam that consists of four performance-based hands on use cases.

Pay premium: 12%

Market value growth: 9%

Exam fee: $250

6. Okta Certified Professional

The Okta Certified Professional certification is the first level of a three-part certification scheme offered by Okta. The certification validates your skills and knowledge with identity and access management using Okta services. The level-one professional exam tests general familiarity with Okta technology and processes, covering topics such as simple directory integration, single-sign-on federation, and application provisioning. There are no prerequisites, but it’s recommended that you have hands-on experience “completing the day-to-day operational tasks to support users of the Okta service.”

Pay premium: 11%

Market value growth: 57%

Exam fee: $250

7. Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT)

The Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT) certification is offered by the ISACA to validate your ability to handle “the governance of an entire organization” and can also help prepare you for moving to a C-suite role if you aren’t already in an executive leadership position. The exam covers general knowledge of governance of enterprise IT, IT resources, benefits realization, and risk optimization. To qualify for the exam, you’ll need at least five years of experience in an advisory or oversight role supporting the governance of IT in the enterprise.

Pay premium: 11%

Market value growth: 38%

Exam fee: $575 for members; $760 for non-members

8. AWS Certified Security – Specialty

The AWS Certified Security certification is a specialty certification from Amazon that validates your expertise and ability with securing data and workloads in the AWS cloud. The exam is intended for those working in security roles with at least two years of hands-on experience securing AWS workloads. It’s recommended that candidates for the exam have at least five years of IT security experience designing and implementing security solutions. You’ll also need a strong working knowledge of AWS security services and features, shared responsibility model, security controls, cloud security threat models, patch management and security automation, disaster recovery controls, data-encryption methods, and more. To earn the certification, you will need to pass the AWS Certified Security Specialty exam, which consists of multiple choice and multiple response questions.

Pay premium: 11%

Market value growth: 22%

Exam fee: $300

9. Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)

The Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge offered by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is a vendor-neutral certification that validates your skills and knowledge of cloud security. It’s designed for cybersecurity and security analysts, security and systems engineers, security and enterprise architects, CISOs, security consultants, compliance managers, and security administrators. The certification covers everything you need to know about developing cloud security programs that adhere to best practices and global standards. To earn your CSSK certification you’ll need to pass a 90-minute exam consisting of 60 multiple-choice questions.

Pay premium: 11%

Market value growth: 10%

Exam fee: $395

10. SAFe Certification

The SAFe Certification is aimed at those working with lean and agile environments that utilize the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). SAFe certified professionals can help organizations adopt and scale lean and agile principles in the workplace, integrating the SAFe framework into the day-to-day workflow of the company. This certification validates your ability to support the successful lean and agile transformation of an organization and assess your overall knowledge of the SAFe framework. In order to earn your SAFe certification, you’ll need to take a course and complete several required exercises prior to passing the course exam.

Pay premium: 11%

Market value growth: 10%

Exam fee: $50

Careers, Certifications, IT Skills

By Keith O’Brien, Chief Technology Officer for the Service Provider line of business at Palo Alto Networks

With each successive generation, advances in mobile technology have trained us to expect ever-faster mobile speeds and the ability of the signal to transport ever-greater loads of data.

Increased data transfer rates enabled 3G to handle larger capacities, and that generation was the first to have serious broadband capabilities. As 4G LTE rolled out, mobile signals could now support interactive multimedia, voice, and video with greater speed and efficiency.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that 5G is characterized mostly by its ability to download very large data files in the blink of an eye and to carry broader sets of data, such as HD video streaming, virtual reality applications, and massive IoT implementations.

But we’re missing a big part of the picture by looking at 5G as just a faster, stronger horse in the race. It’s not just what it does but how it does it. The software-defined architecture of 5G, including 5G security, brings forward use cases that were not previously imaginable.

5G security has a tremendous enabling role to play in this new mobile generation. Cybersecurity doesn’t have to be an afterthought, a risk to be mitigated, and a barrier to be overcome. Done right, building cybersecurity into the 5G architecture can be simple enough to reduce operational complexity, intelligent to provide contextual security outcomes, and predictive to swiftly respond to known and unknown threats in real time.

In a sense, the closer analogy for the advent of 5G is the jump that was made from 1G to 2G. Just as the move toward a digital, cellular network — Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) — made possible an expanded scope of voice and data capabilities, so too the move to software-defined network functionality in 5G is revolutionizing what mobile networks can do for users, enterprises, and the mobile network operators (MNO) that serve them.

Here are just a few of the new mobile capabilities:

Network slices, organized by vertical industry functions, make it possible to create custom private 5G networks with specific service characteristics.Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), with its distributed support for low latency and capacity for rapid delivery of massive data amounts, enables mission critical enterprise applications and creates richer experiences across remote devices.Dense, small cell architecture, using femtocells, picocells, and microcells, play a critical role in densifying the network so that devices and applications that require a low latency, ultra-reliable connection can be supported.

Simply put, there is a lot more to mobile technology than a phone call these days.

And with that expansion of capabilities comes both greater opportunities for products and services delivered by 5G, as well as greater risks from exploitation of the architecture and technology. Here are some signs that we’re not paying close enough attention to how 5G is changing the game.

Lateral movements and network complexityhacking has never had it so good.

The distributed 5G network no longer has a clear perimeter. The assets and workloads of service providers, enterprises, and CSPs are intertwined. Only through visibility and control across the whole system can service providers and enterprises detect breaches, lateral movement, and stop the kill chains.

The US government has sounded the alarm on lateral movements, particularly in cloud-based platforms: “Communications paths that rely on insecure authentication mechanisms, or that are not locked down sufficiently by policy, could be used as a lateral movement path by an attacker, allowing the attacker to change between planes or pivot to gain privileges on another set of isolated network resources.[1]

The CISA/NSA joint guidance statement then gives several recommendations for mitigating damage caused by such breaches, among them, “Sophisticated analytics, based on machine learning and artificial intelligence, can help detect adversarial activity within the cloud and provide the 5G stakeholder with the means to detect malicious use of customer cloud resources.”

Protecting this complex, distributed network environment needs a platform approach with ML-powered threat detection that secures the key 5G interfaces under a single umbrella — no matter if they are distributed across private and public telco clouds and data centers.

Speed is a two-edged swordtaming the beast with automation and AI.

By now it is clear that the expanded surface area of a 5G network — including MEC, network slices, and instantaneous service orchestration — creates territory where speed is both expected and routine. However, highly distributed cloud and edge environments, as well as a proliferation of IoT and user-owned devices also add up to a 5G security environment where threats evolve faster, move more quickly, get more opportunities to attack, and can potentially cause more damage. Additionally, the complexity of modern mobile network architectures enhances the risk of misconfiguration.

These complex, distributed environments are making it very difficult for MNOs to manage networks or to implement changes without the use of automation and artificial intelligence that can tame the speed.

Automation is the key for building 5G networks that have security built in from the moment they are built or the moment new services are configured.

Additionally, there is the concept of proportional response in managing threats to consider. Attacks rapidly and automatically evolve, and attackers use machines to automatically morph attacks. Also, the threat actors utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to automate and obfuscate the attacks, and thus similar techniques are needed to defend.

Automation and AI should be at the core of 5G security to analyze vast amounts of telemetry, proactively assist in intelligently stopping attacks and threats and recommend security policies.

5G innovation and architecture are driving new use cases into unexpected quarters.

For example, the ultra-dense, low latency world of small cell architecture (femtocells, picocells, and microcells) is growing exponentially. Recent industry reports project small cell deployment to grow by 800% over the next decade[2]. Some of the largest growth in the US will come in suburban areas.

The advent of mobile slice services, with their customizable network features and service level agreements (SLA), are already making waves within specific vertical industry use cases, such as automation of field services in upstream energy enterprises, exciting new potential for real-time clinical analysis in healthcare provider settings, and for ultra-reliable, very low latency data services for automated vehicles. The potential has been barely considered thus far.

Meanwhile, U.S. fixed wireless access (FWA) where mobile is used as the primary form of connectivity is expected to grow at 16.1% CAGR through 2026[3]. This growth will be driven by the expansion of 5G networks, particularly in rural areas, coupled with increasing demand for broadband internet in the post-Covid-19 era.

The challenge, of course, will be to meet the demand for 5G use cases in areas well outside of the densely populated core city areas.

CSPs aren’t picking up on enterprise appetite for 5g security-as-a-service demands.

A 2020 study[4] by BearingPoint conducted with analyst firm Omdia found that only one in five (21%) of early enterprise 5G deals is being led by communication service providers (CSPs), while secondary CSP suppliers such as hardware suppliers and systems integrators are leading 40% and large enterprises themselves are leading about a third.

Another BearingPoint survey of 250 executives[5] from large enterprises and small/medium businesses (SMBs) found a predominant appetite for all-encompassing platform solutions. Some 62% of enterprises and 68% of SMBs want to buy a 5G solution that is “ready to go.” This, of course, means solutions that act on and deliver outcomes that are designed from the beginning to be secure and to keep privileged data private.

Skills are not keeping up with needs for 5G security.

Perhaps the biggest flashing signal that 5G security needs more attention comes from a GSMA study last year that reported[6] 48% of surveyed operators said that not having enough knowledge or tools to discover and solve security vulnerabilities was their greatest challenge. This is further exacerbated for 39% of surveyed operators who indicated that they were faced with a limited pool of security experts. Operators want to focus on security, but to do so they will need to partner to build up their offerings.

There are tremendous opportunities and appetite for the capabilities that 5G mobile technology can deliver. We can open new markets for private networks, industry-centric slice solutions, small cell deployment, and MEC applications. But it’s equally clear that all of us in the mobile industry, whether MNOs, network equipment providers, integrators, OEMs, cybersecurity software vendors or cloud players, must work together to develop the simpler platform solutions that the markets are seeking if we are to make good on the promise of 5G.

Learn more about 5G here.

About Keith O’Brien:

Keith serves as the Chief Technology Officer for the Service Provider line of business at Palo Alto Networks and has over 25 years of leadership experience in the cyber security industry. His specialties include secure network design and architecture, application security, devsecops and service provider security.

[1] Security Guidance For 5g Cloud Infrastructures, October 2021. US National Security Agency (NSA) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

[2] The Suburban Migration: New Mapping Analysis Reveals Surprising U.S. Small Cell Growth, Altman Solon. July 2022.

[3] US FWA residential subscribership will grow at 16.1% CAGR through 2026, Global Data Technology. July 2021.

[4] DTWS: CSPs losing big on 5G enterprise deals, BearingPoint and Omdia. October 2020.

[5] DTWS: CSPs losing big on 5G enterprise deals, BearingPoint. October 2020.

[6] Securing private networks in the 5G era, GSMA. June 2021.

5G, IT Leadership