Developing Africa as a continent through interconnection
The benefits of being interconnected come down to cost, sustainability, reliability and latency, says Africa Data Centres’ Stephane Duproz.
Many of the prominent African banks have operations throughout the continent. When a branch in South Africa, for example, needs to talk to an office in Nigeria, having a fluid infrastructure is a massive benefit and one of the ways to do this is with an interconnected data centre.
“If your data centres are interconnected, you fight against latency. If not interconnecting - which needs to happen with backups, updates and so on - requires separate structures that can become costly and unreliable. The fact that we can interconnect our data centres means we can provide a service where Lagos can be connected with Johannesburg directly,” explains Stephane Duproz, CEO of Africa Data Centres. “This reduces latency, improves the performance and the speed of access.”
According to Duproz, when you deploy interconnected data centres, customers who use edge data centres see noticeable benefits because they can access Africa’s major regional business and trade hubs as well as emerging epicentres for public and private cloud hosting.
“Not only are we creating digital hubs in these counties, but we are also developing Africa as a continent through interconnection. Local customers, of both core and edge countries where our data centres operate, have the benefit of a very high-quality data centre in which they can keep their data locally,” adds Duproz.
The benefits of interconnected data centres aren’t exclusive to the enterprise. Duproz is seeing governments that want to work on the sovereignty of their data going local - when data is sent and backed up multiple times, all over the world, following the rules of governance can become problematic, especially for those countries looking to digitalise their activity.
Being carrier-neutral is also key, mainly because cloud operators require diverse connectivity to distribute content. And while there are other carrier-neutral data centres located in Africa, they all operate out of one country, which means they cannot become digital hubs.
“Only carrier-neutral data centres can provide a diversity of connectivity. There are a lot of telecom providers, which means a crossroad of connectivity and without that, there is no digital hub,” says Duproz.
Another advantage of being interconnected is sustainability. While data centres cannot deliver effective services without energy, it is estimated that power used in data centres amounts to over 400 terawatts or the equivalent of 3% of all power generated around the world.
“Data centres are seen as big, hungry power consumers… and they are. But if there were no data centres, the consumption of power would be much higher. In South Africa, as an example, we have around 250 customers. If they didn’t use a data centre, they would still have to secure their IT infrastructure. With load-shedding, they would also need electrical backups like batteries and generators,” explains Duproz. “That would mean at least one generator per customer, probably a second for backup. That’s 500 energy-hungry devices that would kick in every time we have load-shedding… we have just 10.”
Data centres - especially when interconnected - can significantly reduce strain on a power grid (and more so in an electricity sparse country) by concentrating and neutralising the energy consumption of equipment, massively reducing the carbon footprint of the economy and in general, the digital economy. When an organisation keeps data on-premises in a small server room or even a small data centre, however, this can result in power-heavy infrastructure which is not optimal to their core business processes and expensive to run.
“The digital economy reduces the carbon footprint of humankind, and data centres hugely reduce the carbon footprint of the digital economy by neutralising and concentrating power consumption. That being said, we want to go further which is why we have installed solar panels on all of our data centres," Duproz adds.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen many companies move from on-premises and into the cloud. With staff no longer situated at the office, a remote workforce comes with IT tools that need to be both reliable and accessible, permanently.
“Directly connecting to the cloud with no latency for any business comes with heavy benefits, be it better performance, better resilience or reliability at a lower cost. To be connected to the world, to participate and benefit by what it has to offer, you have to be interconnected,” he ends.