Data centre investments that define Africa growth

Zimbabwean entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa (right), Strathmore University’s  Dr Vincent Ogutu (second right), Ben Roberts of Liquid Telecom (second left) and the university’s DVC Dr George Njenga (left) signing a deal on launching of a data analytics centre last month. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Zimbabwean entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa (right), Strathmore University’s Dr Vincent Ogutu (second right), Ben Roberts of Liquid Telecom (second left) and the university’s DVC Dr George Njenga (left) signing a deal on launching of a data analytics centre last month. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Globally, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated daily from website visits, social media posts, mobile app interactions, and other online activity.

This flood of information is stored in data centres, which need to grow exponentially, and now by even more as the cloud blooms.

In Africa, both Liquid Telecom and MTN have recently announced the expansion of their data centres in South Africa and in Kenya to provide more colocation services to meet the rising demand for cloud-based services.

“As moving to cloud-based solutions becomes more commonplace, businesses across Africa require more carrier-neutral, open-access data centre space for their business-critical data and applications,” said Nic Rudnick, Group CEO, Liquid Telecom.

“Through continuous investment in Africa data centres, we are providing the foundations for leading enterprises and cloud providers to come and build their digital future in Africa.”

This infrastructure investment comes amid forecasts of booming African data generation over the next five years, with the number of broadband connections expected to grow at an average of twenty per cent a year, according to the African Data Centre Market Report 2017.

“The migration workload to cloud services is increasing, users are raising concerns on data privacy and security, creating a new breed of consumers in the digital world, putting pressure on Africa Internet networks,” states the report.

Companies are additionally investing heavily in data server space in data centres to migrate to cloud services, back up their information, interlink to other companies, and provide secure, convenient services to their customers.

Data centre servers allow customers to enjoy 24 hour access to their information through interlinks and faster access to data and international search engines, with search engine requests routed to, for instance, Facebook and Google servers through interlinks created within the data centres.

The South Africa Data Centre in Johannesburg and Cape Town, together with its East Africa Data Centre (EADC) partner and the East and Central Africa Data Centre (CADC) are currently Africa’s largest and highest grade centres with interconnected purpose-built data centre facilities.

“They are interconnected by multiple networks including Liquid Telecom’s fibre network, which provides regional and international reach for customers. This allows businesses hosting data and cloud in Africa to have control and flexibility of where to host and back-up their data with geographic diversity,” said Rudnick.

By securing adequate server space companies are also assured of security through measures put in place by data centres.

“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Companies should ensure to take proactive measures to protect themselves or mitigate disturbance in offer of their services. Hosting such services in robust data centre facilities is critical. Running services through robust networks with redundancies in place is critical,” said Dan Kwach, EADC’s General Manager.

Nairobi County recently launched a Sh1.3 billion data centre that will support a call centre, CCTV control and Internet connectivity with a focus on increasing monitoring to fight crime in the city.

The industry also faces challenges in providing full protection against power shortages, facilities sabotage and cybercrime, which has become a global threat with the world’s most recent ransomware attack estimated to have affected over 200,000 computers across 150 countries, with losses amounting to billions of dollars.

“Indeed, with such uncertainty, it is prudent on businesses to take necessary precautions to prevent disruption in offer of critical services. ICT services stand at the epicentre of such critical services and should be proactively secured from disturbance as a bare minimum,” said Kwach.

This is the basis of building robust and redundant network infrastructure that complies with industry standards in offering high availability and increasing reliability of telecommunication services.”

He says companies and organisations should have emergency plans to secure their staff, assets, revenue and costs, held in data centres that meet the threshold to host sensitive data.

However, experts are beginning to argue that the sheer burden of mounting data may also now start to see companies that collect and store data becoming more selective about the data they keep, moving to discard non-useful information.

Research by consultants James Price of Experience Matters and Martin Spratt of Clear Strategic IT Partners estimates the cost of storing bad data at 15 to 20 per cent of revenue for most companies.

The scale of these costs may also now usher in new attention to the value of all data, as the competition for secure facilities rises, and the costs of supporting data generation mount.