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Amazon rollout of cloud computing unit in Nairobi set to spur East African market

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Many web developers prefer hosting their websites on AWS citing affordable rates. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

American technology giant Amazon.com has announced that its cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services (AWS), will set up an office in Nairobi to offer the East African cloud market low latency and higher speeds, early next year.

In an event attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the tech giant promised to introduce the full suite of internet benefits that include computing, networking and cybersecurity services.

“Amazon CloudFront is a highly secure and programmable Content Delivery Network (CDN) that will accelerate the delivery of data, videos, applications and APIs to users worldwide, with low data transfer delay and higher speeds in East Africa,” the statement read.

The US company will aim to dethrone already existing cloud service providers such as Google Kenya, Microsoft, Safaricom, MTN, Internet Solutions and East African Data Handlers through “easy and cost-effective way to deliver content to end users with improved performance, security, and availability.”

Customers across the East African region can expect up to 50 percent reduction in latency, the delay in transfer of data, for delivery of their content with the new Edge location.

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AWS vice-president for the worldwide public sector Teresa Carlson said the company founded by Jeff Bezos, world’s richest man, is thrilled to continue to support customers of all preferences.

"Innovative Kenyan startups, enterprises and public sector customers are adopting AWS at a rapid pace and we look forward to continuing to support this growth. This reflects our ongoing commitment to sub-Saharan Africa, with Kenya serving as a key hub in the East -African region,” she said.

Kenya is the latest country to be connected to the AWS global infrastructure network of 200 Points of Presence in 77 cities across 37 countries.

“Kenya is an innovator in digital financial services in Africa. Having advanced cloud infrastructure in the country, AWS will support our ability to flourish as a nation and reach our potential as Africa’s fast-growing digital-economy,” said Mr Kenyatta.

Such investment is geared towards putting the company in the forefront of accelerated innovation by enabling startups, most of which are chained by high internet and cloud charges, and end up closing shop less than five years after inception, according to Forbes.

Affordable cloud storage, security and management would spur more growth of the country’s digital economy, especially e-commerce, which grew by over 10 percent in the past year, the highest in Africa, according to the latest World Bank Digital Report.

It would also inspire a good number of the 35 tech hubs and accelerators which have sprouted outside the capital to move closer to the city to help cut cloud costs.

Currently, Google offers its customers free cloud storage of 15GB but on exhausting that, it gives them a choice to pay Sh200 for 100GB or Sh300 for 300GB per month.

For heavy file storage, you are required to part with Sh1,000 for two terabytes of storage, Sh10,000 for 10 TB, Sh21,000 for 20TB or Sh31,000 for 30TB, according to your demand, per month.

Safaricom on its part offers the same services at an extremely high price of 100GB at Sh1,392, 400GB at Sh4,872, 1TB at Sh12,110, 5TB at Sh59,624 per month while those who opt for 20TB of storage will have to pay Sh237,800 per month.

It is such prices that the World Bank says need to be reduced in order to encourage youth talent growth in the digital field noting that though “the country has positioned itself as Africa’s technology investment destination,” high data and cloud services need to be lowered to better prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Kenyan digital space has witnessed a growth in international internet bandwidth capacity by 200 per cent between 2015 and 2018 and the second highest internet speed in Africa of 10.11Mbps after Madagascar.

AWS has not stated its rates for storage but it has been working with Safaricom to build applications to eliminate the need to install and operate their own container orchestration software, manage and scale a cluster of virtual machines or schedule containers on those virtual machines.

“We welcome the launch of the new Edge location as this will reduce latency and performance of our web and mobile applications, resulting in a radically improved user experience for our customers,” George Njuguna, Safaricom’s chief information officer, said.

AWS promises increased speeds in serving real-time digital content to customers, such as video, music, web-native shows and notifications.

“In addition, we will gain unparalleled security features, which will protect our applications from Dedicated Denial of Service (DDoS) and other cyber attacks.”

Safaricom has in the past one week been considering interest rates for M-Shwari and KCB M-Pesa but it is not clear whether reduction of cloud storage rates is part of the bigger plan.

Many web developers prefer hosting their websites on AWS citing affordable rates, stability and security.

However, last month, for nearly eight hours, Amazon said it experienced “intermittent errors with resolution of some AWS Domain Name Service (DNS) names.”

A DDoS cyberattack rocked AWS leaving customers stranded. Most of the company’services rely on external DNS queries, and this has serious implications for American east coast clients using services such as Relational Database Service (RDS) and Elastic Load Balancing (ELB).

On the west coast, almost at the same time, Google Compute Engine and Google Cloud Storage faced unexpected outage.

This affirms the belief by many IT professionals that no company can guarantee 100 percent of uptime in a world of cybercrime.

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