Taking centre stage in digital transformation

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A new wave of African data centre builds is bringing with it new opportunities for putting essential business services in the cloud. Liquid Telecom explains how data centres will play a central role in supporting Africa’s digital future.

Africa’s digital transformation is gathering pace. Broadband adoption continues to boom, with nearly a third of Africans now online, according to Internet World Stats.

In many African economies the price of broadband services is falling, and networks are continuing to densify and interconnect across borders.

Enterprises and consumers alike are benefiting from increasingly robust connectivity, and long standing challenges around data privacy and protection are starting to receive much needed attention.

As a generation of African digital natives emerges, demand is being created for high
quality carrier-neutral data centre capacity.

In the continent’s more progressive economies at least, this demand is translating into a wave of infrastructure development. Demand for services such as cloud, disaster recovery and storage, coupled with a relative shortage of supporting infrastructure, will act to increase demand for data centre services, stimulating a further wave of infrastructure development.

Reaching international standards

The best of this new wave of data centres bear comparison with facilities to be found
in more developed parts of the world, matching them for build quality, resilience
and security. For example, the Nairobi-based East Africa Data Centre (EADC), a subsidiary
of Liquid Telecom Kenya, is a recent winner of Tier III Certification and is home
to web-scale players such as Google and Facebook, both of which hold their regional
caches there.

EADC also hosts the Kenya Internet Exchange Point (KIXP) and a wealth of
banking and commercial data. It houses 2,000 square metres of secured space for
data servers over four floors, making it the largest data centre in the region.

“We’ve definitely seen a rise in demand for data centre space in various parts of Africa,” says Dan Kwach, General Manager of the East Africa Data Centre. “There are a number
of reasons for this. For one there’s been a very strong element of transition, with a lot
of businesses going through a period of digital change. There’s a move to improve
the efficiency of end user ICT, and that means an increase in the consumption of IT
services of the kind that we offer.”

Numerous pieces of legislation are emerging that are further driving data centre demand:
“In Kenya, for example, there is a lot of regulation affecting the financial servicessector,” he points out.

A future in the cloud

The development of world-class data facilities like EADC is welcome news for those who believe Africa’s digital future lies in the cloud. We have already seen a surge
of adoption of cloud-based ICT services among Africa’s enterprise community, and
further builds can only accelerate this trend.

A hopeful sign is the interest being taken in Africa as a cloud services market by various
of the world’s hyper-scale web giants. Microsoft, for example, has committed to
investing in Africa-based cloud services with news last year that it plans to deliver
Microsoft Cloud for the first time from data centres located in Johannesburg and Cape
Town. Initial availability is anticipated in 2018.

Currently many companies in Africa rely on cloud services delivered from outside
of the continent, so the main significance of Microsoft’s investment is that it will
provide cloud services across Africa, but with the data residing in South Africa. Last
year, Liquid Telecom joined Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) programme,
enabling it to deliver scalable and secure cloud services across Africa.

Such developments point to a future in which African enterprises will no longer have
to access cloud services from outside the continent.