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Building on international knowledge critical for data centre growth in Africa

Johannesburg, 16 Apr 2021
Read time 3min 50sec
Stephane Duproz, CEO, Africa Data Centres.
Stephane Duproz, CEO, Africa Data Centres.

In every industry, there’s a need to be able to tap into the knowledge that’s been built up over the years. This allows companies to understand the combined wisdom of the market, avoiding pitfalls and taking advantage of strategies that allow them to meet their customers' needs.

Sometimes this knowledge resides within the local industry, but in the increasingly global business world, there’s a growing need to include international expertise in many business plans.

With the independent data centre provider playing an increasingly important part of the technology landscape, international experience is a critical element in ensuring success.

Africa Data Centres CEO Stephane Duproz explains that the requirements of data centre customers in Africa are driving the need for a combination of local insights and skills combined with international experience.

“While the data centre industry in Europe came into its own around 2000, the growth of true carrier-neutral data centres in Africa has only really gathered pace over the past four years,” he says. “This has provided African operators with the opportunity to learn from the successes, and mistakes, of their global counterparts.”

Hyperscalers drive high standards

He adds this growth has been driven by the move towards cloud-based applications and services, leveraging the platforms created by the hyperscale operators, including Google, AWS and Microsoft. “These computing platforms were the catalyst for data centre growth, globally, and as they grew so the sophistication of their systems and the demands they placed on their partners increased.

“When you are running a global platform, consistency is a critical success factor; you need a specific level of the facility from all your data centre suppliers, irrespective of whether they’re in London, Tokyo or Johannesburg. There is no room for a learning curve.”

He explains that while the international data centre providers were able to evolve the level of their service alongside the hyperscalers, data centres in Africa need to be able to meet the same standards from day one. This requires insight into not just what those standards are, but also how they evolved.

“This kind of institutional knowledge can’t be acquired by studying technical documents, it requires people with hands-on experience,” he says. “When you’ve spent 15 years working with the cloud operators you acquire certain skills and knowledge. As the cloud operators accelerate their move into Africa, these are critical.”

Enterprise clients benefit

He adds that it’s not just the cloud operators driving the evolution of standards in data centres. Enterprise customers and other services providers are also looking for access to data centre facilities that enable them to comply with new regulations in their industries. With the cost of building these facilities proving uneconomical for even large companies, they’re looking to data centre providers to enable them to host their infrastructure in an environment that meets their security, availability and business continuity needs.

“This enables African companies to benefit from the infrastructure being created to enable the hyperscale cloud providers,” says Duproz. “By tapping into the international expertise their data centre providers have built up, African organisations can access many of the insights into global best practices. Moving IT operations into a data centre environment allows them to cut costs as the data centres facilitate the connection to systems hosted in the cloud or elsewhere in the data centre.”

As is seen in the rest of the world, Duproz points out that we’re starting to see the emergence of data centre hubs in key locations across Africa. “Access to land, power and connectivity are the three elements that determine where the best location for a data centre is. With all companies using the same basic formula, it's natural that you’ll see multiple operators establishing facilities in the same general area. However, picking these sites requires a combination of local knowledge and an understanding of global best practice.”

As the data centre market across the continent continues to grow, with companies looking to optimise their infrastructure, cut cost and embrace more flexible business processes, the need for an operator to be able to seamlessly blend local skills with global experience will be key to success.

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