Dimension Data East Africa: Embracing the skills of those born in the cloud

How to mitigate the risk of the massive brain drain that has become a perennial problem in Africa is something that keeps many business and technology leaders up at night. Investing in skills development just to see talent moving abroad is not only frustrating but also costly.

“Organisations across East Africa have embraced the cloud to help drive business growth. They are spending time and money training people and giving them exposure to new technologies and platforms. But because of the global demand for these skills, many are leaving Africa to pursue work in the United States and Europe,” says Andrew Ngunjiri, Practice Manager: Intelligent Infrastructure at Dimension Data East Africa.

Training differently

Those legacy organisations who used to model their businesses around the ‘I build, I own, I run’ approach have realised this is no longer sustainable. More hubs have sprung up that provide young people with access to coding and DevOps skills. In many respects, this is creating a mill for talent seeking their fortunes elsewhere. This exodus is now fuelled by companies refocusing the areas in which they are upskilling and reskilling talent.

“Discussions have turned to how companies can consciously retain skills locally and incentivise people not to be lured to international markets. As such, there has been a surge in home-grown skills development programmes built around this,” says Ngunjiri.

According to Lee Syse, Senior Cloud Solutions Architect for Sub-Sahara Africa at VMware, it has been interesting to see how the types of skills that are in demand have changed.

“Traditional organisations have spent a lot of time focusing on the build portion of the legacy approach. Typically, this consists of people specialising in any of the infrastructure, networking, and storage pillars. Today, there is less of a focus on these areas of specialisation and more of a demand for generalists. Partners like Dimension Data are focused on leveraging these generalists to manage all aspects of the cloud,” he says.

A generalist world

Ngunjiri questions whether African companies are doing enough to create future technologists who can be generalists. 

“I suppose it depends on where in the value chain the organisation sits. Few companies are involved in the building phase as they can merely leverage the cloud environments that have already been created. We see a demand for transferable skills, with coding being a great example. People learn the ability to code as a fundamental skill. They can then transfer that to work on any cloud platform,” he says.

There is also a convergence taking place inside organisations. They no longer have several specialist teams but rather a central team that is focused on delivering a specific organisational outcome. 

“In the cloud environment, it is no longer about speeds and feeds. Attention is now on how to create a platform that enables businesses to reach their objectives. Companies used to value hardcore technology certifications. Now, those individuals with operational management skills are the most in-demand,” says Ngunjiri. 

More adaptive

Syse agrees and says that this is putting pressure on educational institutions to change as well. 

“Talented people who are going through this transformation process are playing a catch-up game. Those who used to be specialists in one area must now start at a basic level in another area. It can be quite overwhelming to move between these stages of development as there is a lot of training to be done in various areas,” he says.

Syse cites AWS certifications as an example.

“It really comes down to just knowledge-sharing as no person can be a specialist in all the AWS areas available. Companies also need to think differently about certification. It is less about the piece of paper a person has and more about their ability to execute on what is required.”

Ngunjiri echoes this sentiment.

“It is no longer about the piece of paper that shows what a person can do. For a future-forward organisation, it is using people with executable skills who can make things work. Of course, the demand for skills is very much guided by the industry sector in which a person operates in. But people will always gravitate towards where the demand is the highest to identify where to upskill themselves,” says Ngunjiri.

Unfortunately, traditionally-minded business leaders are still too slow around this mindset change. They must be willing to look beyond purely academic knowledge and factor in a person’s practical skills. Fortunately, the new generation coming through is born in the cloud. And with them, a new way of doing things will follow.

Skills development

“Much of it comes down to building skills that can cater to future growth instead of simply buying skills in demand. Today’s skills are so diverse they cannot be shopped off the street. Talent must be brewed internally, which makes those people high in demand,” says Syse.

“And with that, the way organisations retain their most valuable skills will be unique to each of them as they continue to fight the war against the brain drain,” concludes Ngunjiri.

www.dimensiondata.com

[Column] Andrew Ngunjiri: The state of the cloud in Africa – A partner’s perspective

The cloud in Africa is undergoing massive transformation and acceleration. There has been a huge uptake in cloud services, especially when it comes to SMEs turning towards hyperscalers. Meanwhile, more prominent organisations and governments have been embracing the private cloud. 

An EY study has highlighted a new wave of investments spreading across Africa centred on companies migrating to the cloud as they look at becoming more efficient while reducing their operational costs. Closer to home, the Kenyan market has always been one of the largest adopters of technology in the region.

Therefore, it is not surprising that there has been a significant interest in cloud services by both the public and private sectors here. Additionally, the public sector and the financial services industry have been vocal about investing in the private cloud to cater to their specific requirements.

This has provided the impetus for many hyperscalers to look at opening operations in Kenya instead of purely relying on their regional offices in South Africa, the United States, and Europe to service the region’s demands for cloud computing services.

 Cloud-enabled

Events of the past two years have made it virtually impossible for people to move around. The cloud has therefore become an essential tool for businesses to survive.

Beyond this, there are three reasons why the cloud has become a critical building block for the region. Firstly, it provides the business agility necessary to remain competitive. Secondly, the cloud helps to address any security and compliance concerns resulting from a rapidly evolving regulatory environment. And thirdly, the cloud injects a level of performance and operational efficiency not previously possible.

Even though public and private cloud models provide benefits, we anticipate the hybrid cloud model to win the race for massive adoption. We are already seeing hybrid becoming the natural progression of cloud adoption in the region, with many organisations and governments opting for this model. 

It comes down to a simple matter of practicality. When one looks at the cloud, applications are a massive driver behind its adoption. However, not every application is optimised for the cloud. This means companies must carefully review which ones make sense to move to the cloud and which ones must be kept on-premises.

Another factor impacting the decision to move to hybrid is the strong drive towards compliance, especially data protection. There has been a massive push in Kenya regarding this, with significant investments being made to ensure companies adhere to regulatory requirements. Having already invested in the private cloud, going hybrid means businesses can leverage shared services and infrastructure far more cost-effectively while maintaining compliance.

Navigating obstacles

This does not mean that companies do not face obstacles when it comes to migrating to the cloud. One of the significant ones relates to adoption and IT transformation. There is a huge challenge when it comes to keeping up with developments in this space. Organisations need to manage shorter development cycles and overcome their concerns around controlling costs and mitigating risks.

Because not all applications are cloud-optimised, going about modernising them can add to the complexity of the migration. There is also a reduction in IT budgets to consider. Across the board, companies in the region are seeing a change in ownership take place when it comes to these budgets, which are now moving from the CIO into the rest of the business. Practically, retaining and attracting the right skills for cloud adoption is an ongoing problem.

Organisations must also be constantly vigilant regarding security and compliance as driven by the various regulatory institutions. Additionally, the infrastructure must meet the performance requirements of a cloud-driven environment. Fortunately, Kenya has seen ongoing investments in infrastructure pay off to mitigate concerns around having access to fast and reliable connectivity.

Another obstacle to consider is how a company can derive the maximum benefit from the data it has at its disposal. With data being the new currency, many businesses need to understand how best to unlock the potential of their data.

Digital building blocks

Putting the building blocks in place for a successful digital transformation plan that can simplify the cloud transition is critical. An organisation needs to have end-to-end service capabilities in place. Discussions around the cloud and digital transformation have all centred on how to enable this service.

Companies also need cloud expertise. Some skills are transferrable, while others are not. A platform approach to discovery, management, and development across multiple technologies forms part of this discussion. It entails balancing between upskilling existing resources and using trusted third parties.

Throughout this, cost optimisation becomes essential if organisations are to be more efficient around their IT spending and reduce the total ownership cost.

Commercial models must become more flexible. The consumption has changed from Capex to Opex. Therefore, business and technology leaders need flexibility both in terms of their mindset and the business’s operational model to fully align to a hybrid cloud model.

 Yet, the cloud has proven its value to the region, and it will only contribute to accelerated efficiencies. But for this to happen, organisations need to be more open and adaptive to change to ensure they can future-proof their operations.

Andrew Ngunjiri is the Practice Manager: Intelligent Infrastructure at Dimension Data East Africa

SAS’ cloud-first portfolio soars with customer success, industry solutions and strategic partners

SAS boldly stakes its future on a powerful cloud analytics platform and AI-driven, cloud-first industry solutions. It’s the analytics and AI leader’s cloud-first approach that eases customers’ digital transformations. And SAS’ cloud momentum is building, where despite the pandemic’s pressure and uncertainty, SAS’ global cloud revenue jumped 19% in 2021. With results like this, SAS is deepening its broad industry portfolio with solutions that support life sciences, energy and martech.

According to McKinsey & Company, 70% of companies using cloud technology plan to increase their cloud budgets. The public cloud computing market is projected to grow to $800 billion by 2024, with implementations across all industries – retail, media, telecom, education, banking, insurance and more.

What’s driving this investment? Forrester Consulting’s new Total Economic Impact study, shows organisations deploying SAS® Viya® on Microsoft Azure can see significant returns in as little as 14-months. In fact, one company more than tripled its investment in three years, results that will be explored during the May 18 webinar, Driving 204% ROI With SAS Viya On Microsoft Azure.

Journey to the cloud

SAS’ cloud-first transformation didn’t happen overnight. Using its decades-long legacy as a bridge to the future, step No. 1 was to develop SAS® Viya® as a cloud-first analytics platform. That endeavour ran in sync with ongoing strategic partnership investments, including Microsoft Azure. More recently, SAS joined new partner Cosmo Tech to fortify its digital twin simulation capabilities.

“We transformed our portfolio to be cloud-native and cloud-portable so customers can accelerate their move to the cloud and expand their use of analytics, machine learning and AI,” said Bryan Harris, SAS Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. “At the end of the day, we want our platform and industry solutions to be a critical part of every customer’s analytic innovation.”

Because SAS is both cloud-first and cloud-agnostic, helping customers manage the complexity of analysing intense data in the cloud is second nature. “Our customers don’t need to stress about data complexity or the details of running analytic workloads in the cloud, because SAS gives them the expertise they need,” said Jay Upchurch, SAS Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer – who also leads the SAS cloud business. “SAS analytics in the cloud gives our customers a distinct advantage, whether they’re using SAS Viya or an industry solution.”

In 2021, SAS realised the most cloud revenue growth from customers Asia Pacific (48% growth) and EMEA (29% growth) – and SAS’ commitment to cloud and AI innovation lives in its customers’ successes.  

SAS Hackathon teams innovate with SAS in the cloud

The SAS Hackathon is an incubator for innovation and a test bed for AI in the cloud. Hackathon teams use SAS Viya on Microsoft Azure, along with open-source tools, to help solve some of the world’s toughest social and economic challenges.

This year’s SAS Hackathon included a team of eight members from South African who competed alongside 69 other team, representing 135 organisations and 75 countries.

The team from South Africa leveraged advanced augmented intelligence to build a solution that included creating models that could be trained to identify lung disease using digital X-rays. Even with limited data sets available the models were able to achieve diagnostic accuracy above 90% – and while for the duration of the Hackathon the team focused on lung diseases, the models have the potential to be scaled up to include other body parts for the same purpose of quick identification, diagnosis and treatment prioritisation.

www.sas.com

[Column] Andrew Cruise: How to create a cloud migration strategy for your business

The benefits of cloud are clear: increased agility and efficiency, longer-term hardware efficacy, and greater security are just some of the perks.

Why, then, has everyone not yet moved their operations to cloud? “Eliminating traditional infrastructure is a major undertaking,” says Andrew Cruise, MD of VMware Cloud provider Routed. “And with all the cloud options available today, decision-making has become more complex.”

With all the noise out there, it’s important to put a solid cloud migration strategy in place. Here’s how to cut through the fog and get on the cloud:

1. Outline your environment

There are, in broad terms, two types of cloud environments: those for development, and those for enterprise. “Marketing has blended the two use cases and confused users,” says Cruise. “Devops is exciting, amazing, cutting-edge. The business usage, less so, because it involves migrating physical workloads to the cloud. Don’t confuse need-to-have with nice-to-have and spend money on something that seems very attractive, but that you won’t really need or use.”

2. Do an audit of your operations

Cloud doesn’t necessarily replace all previous options but is an add-on in the hybrid world of today. Do an audit of your company’s operations and decide what needs to be moved to the cloud, says Cruise. “Some operations might not be suited to cloud for compliance reasons, for example. The decision to move certain operations to cloud depends on your desired outcome. You need to factor in your company’s unique variables for each operation, like cost, complexity, and compliance.”

Then, decide what needs to move to which type of cloud. “Different apps and operations belong in different places,” explains Cruise. “It’s unlikely that every cloud provider is fit-for-purpose for every app, and you need to choose the right environment for the right app. Picking a single platform because you want to keep things simple can mean suffering performance or commercial problems down the line. It introduces complexity to your final solution, yes, but each set of workloads will be in an ideal place.”

3. Start small

This is particularly important for SMEs, says Cruise. “If you move too much to cloud too quickly, it can lead to failed migrations and operational paralysis. Break your operations down into bite-sized pieces and move them one at a time.”

What you decide to move first depends on your needs. “Some migrations, like email or backups, are relatively simple and low risk. This might make sense for some companies. “For others, moving to virtual machines is the smarter choice. VMware Cloud operators, like Routed, are running the same VMware that you’re running on-premises – the same enterprise-grade storage and servers. You get the immediate benefits of performance, reliability, scalability, and flexibility while only paying monthly usage.”

4. Find the right management tools

When it comes to managing all these separate clouds once you’ve migrated, you won’t be able to achieve everything you want to with one management product, says Cruise. “Rather look for specialist management tools. If cost management is your priority or challenge, look for tools that manage costs across a range of cloud platforms. If you want to visualise your usage across multiple clouds, look for a product that gives you that kind of UI. A single management platform that does all the above, and does it well, does not exist. Choose specialist interfaces that do the job properly.”

Andrew Cruise is the managing director at Routed.

Scott Bader selects Infor to drive cloud upgrades across three continents including Africa

Cloud company Infor has announced that Scott Bader, the global chemical company, has selected Infor CloudSuite Chemicals. Delivered by Infor Consulting Services via a multi-tenant cloud deployment, Infor CloudSuite Chemicals, including the Infor OS platform, will replace an existing Infor M3 ERP solution. This initial, six-year agreement will help enable Scott Bader to standardise and harmonise a variety of core business functions for 380 users throughout North America, Canada, Europe, Japan, the Middle East, Australia and South Africa. 

Established in 1921, Scott Bader became the first employee-owned UK company during 1951. Now it employs almost 750 people across 7 manufacturing sites and 17 offices globally. Drawing on a century of tradition, it is a leader in the manufacturing of products for the composites, structural adhesives and functional polymer markets, offering a range of technologies and manufacturing capabilities for multiple market sectors. 

Following a thorough review of the market including customer references, Scott Bader chose Infor due to its commitment to cloud, the chemical industry vertical and the planning and production scheduling functionality of Infor CloudSuite Chemicals. As there are plans for third-party software integrations in the future, the superior integration capabilities of the Infor OS cloud operating platform were also a key factor in Scott Bader’s decision. 

Scott Bader chose a multi-tenant cloud deployment running on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to ensure the business can benefit from continual updates whilst maintaining a standardised software with minimal customisations.

The initial phase of the deployment, set to be completed during 2022, will help establish and roll out a set of standardised process templates across Scott Bader globally. This will enable Scott Bader to undertake faster, more accurate reporting across the company, improving decision-making and agility. 

“Seven strategic goals drive Scott Bader,” said Mike Findlay-Wilson, Group CIO at Scott Bader. “These include striving for excellence, developing excellent partnerships with customers and suppliers, protecting our environment and going beyond the demands of compliance. To achieve these goals, our business demands the best processes and an ability to stay continually up to date with the supporting technologies. Therefore, we have chosen to move to the cloud with Infor.”

“Chemicals leaders such as Scott Bader recognise the benefits of our industry-specific functionality in combination with the improvements that deployment in the cloud brings,” said Anwen Robinson, Infor general manager and senior vice-president for UK & Ireland. “This transition to Infor CloudSuite Chemicals is the latest stage in our relationship that will help deliver better planning, scheduling and processes to keep Scott Bader at the forefront of a demanding global market.”

www.scottbader.com

www.infor.com

[South Africa] Routed achieves Gold Status in Veeam Cloud & Service Provider Program

Africa’s cloud platform Routed has earned Gold status in the Veeam® Cloud & Service Provider (VCSP) program. The company is now one of the select cloud providers to offer its customers Veeam-powered solutions to build reliable, enterprise-grade Backup as a Service (BaaS) and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) offerings.

Veeam Software, the leader in backup, recovery and data management solutions that deliver Modern Data Protection, provides its solutions through strong alliance partnerships and seamless technology integrations with leading cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Cloud and IBM Cloud. Veeam offers a complete solution that is simple, flexible, reliable and powerful to help businesses transform the way they manage data and applications, to helping to ensure availability across cloud, virtual, physical, SaaS and Kubernetes environments.

Working with Veeam, Routed can now offer its customers a cost-effective way to scale their backup requirements and data management systems. Routed’s Managing Director, Andrew Cruise, is thrilled to be inpartnership with one of the world’s leading technology vendors and to be elevated to Gold VSCP partner status. “Digitally conscious customers are demanding faster, more reliable and effective IT infrastructures, regardless of where they keep their data, and our relationship with Veeam underpins our ability to provide this,” he says.

The partnership also offers partner perks tailored to the business, including internal-use licenses, marketing programs, deal registration and access to the ProPartner portal, which offers sales tools and other partner-related information to help qualify and drive business.

“Routed has demonstrated proficient knowledge of Veeam products, and we are confident in its ability to deliver Veeam-powered solutions to enable their customers to achieve optimum Modern Data Protection. We’re looking forward to collaborating with Routed to become even more profitable and drive growth.” Matthew Lee, Africa’s Regional Director for Veeam, says.

www.veeam.com

www.routed.co.za

Reimagining the IT infrastructure of the cloud operating model, IDC

Research by International Data Corporation (IDC) has revealed that 49% of CIOs across the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (MEA) believe that the cloud has the potential to play a significant role in driving innovation, creating new digital products, transforming business models and refining revenue streams and this will influence their spend over the next 12-18 months. Speaking at the recent IDC Cloud and Datacentre Roadshow, Jon Tullett, research manager for IT services for IDC Sub-Saharan Africa said there  are two primary reasons why companies should be paying attention to cloud and making it a strategic priority in the current environment.

“First, making the best use of infrastructure is always going to be a strategic priority for the CIO and, in many cases, the cloud is the best infrastructure choice,” says Tullett. “Secondly, cloud services and business requirements evolve very quickly so there needs to be a constant process of re-evaluating the services that are in use and assessing whether or not they should be refreshed or migrated elsewhere.”

That said, if cloud is to be a strategic priority, it equally needs to be given the right resources to ensure that it operates optimally. IT teams need to take a holistic look at their cloud operating models so that they are assured that the spending and implementation meet business value expectations and enable the business across the essential pillars of speed, flexibility, cost and reliability. To ensure these efficiencies and optimisation strategies, several common elements need to be addressed.

“A consistent security policy along with common management and central reporting are three areas where the cost of getting it wrong is immediate and appears as additional overheads and reduced agility,” says Tullett. “If you dig deeper, this leads to discussions around API management and integration strategies that, for many CIOs, are easy investments in the future. They don’t add much cost today, but payout handsomely as company use cases expand.”

Cloud deployments can fundamentally help the organisation improve its operational efficiencies over the long term, particularly those that have not yet fully optimised their technology environments.  This has already been seen in the measurable returns on investment and productivity found by companies already moving down the digital transformation road – they have realised benefits such as faster time to market, simplified innovation, easier scalability, and reduced risk. If a company can get its strategy and operating models in alignment then it will see improvements in these baseline metrics and overall operational capability.

“If an organisation is experiencing worse operational inefficiency after deploying into the cloud, then the cloud has been implemented incorrectly,” says Tullett. “As blunt as that may be, it’s the reality and asks that the organisation relook its strategy and approaches to turn this around. It’s not always obvious where the business is experiencing operational inefficiencies, however, so it is worth using the built-in telemetry in cloud platforms to assess performance.”

Use the tools and the third-party services that allow for the business to measure its efficiency. This will allow for it to measure and improve efficiencies as part of cloud key performance indicators rather than as guesswork and estimations. Also, do not stop assessing at the implementation phase when moving the software into the cloud because the real benefits only show themselves once the organisation actively leverages the advantages of cloud. These are, of course, agility, speed of deployment, inter-service integration, faster iteration, and consumption pricing.

“If you cannot express your cloud spend in these terms – across these benefits – then you may get stuck on first base,” says Tullett. “Then, once you have established these as your foundation, take these cloud advantages and overlay them over your entire IT infrastructure. You can get most, if not all, of these benefits with other technologies as well. Cloud is not the only option, it is a change in how you articulate business value and how the business aligns with IT.”

In the end, whether cloud, operations, implementation or transformation drive the business journey, every part of an organisation’s infrastructure needs to be held to high standards that prioritise strategic imperatives and align with mission-critical business objectives.

www.idc.com

Orchestrating multicloud: Implementing a strategy that works

VMWare Principal Partner and Africa’s only neutral cloud infrastructure business, Routed, says implementing a workable multicloud strategy hinges on a business properly assessing applications within its current infrastructure environment to decide which cloud is ideal for each of its applications.

“This should be balanced against the ability to provide fault tolerance for each application across cloud operators, as well as the integration between applications which might affect decisions to deploy applications together on the same cloud platform, or across multiple cloud platforms,” says Andrew Cruise, Managing Director, Routed.

Another equally important consideration is ensuring internal resilience when migrating or developing applications on any cloud platform. “It’s much better to first mitigate risk and avoid downtime caused by relatively minor issues, and only then design fault tolerance or failover between cloud operators in the event of a major downtime incident on one of your cloud operators,” he says.

An organisation’s choice of providers should be dictated by their ability to deliver a secure, performant and highly available hosting experience, combined with the required features and functions for all business applications. “Your provider’s credibility and reliability track record should be investigated and their expertise to run your business-critical applications queried,” notes Cruise.

He adds that a multicloud approach does not have to include all cloud operators or indeed any of the hyperscale cloud operators. “Risk mitigation dictates that multiple cloud operators should be chosen, but it should also be feasible for these to use one consistent platform, which is what VMware Cloud has been designed to do.”

The benefits of multicloud typically fall into two groups; the first being the value features of each individual cloud and the second group centred on risk mitigation, it’s important to remember that these two groups are inherently in conflict. “By definition, unique platforms, software and functions offered by a specific cloud provider are not offered by the others and therefore it is nearly impossible to load balance or provide cross-cloud resilience for applications that are developed with these toolsets across multiple cloud platforms,” explains Cruise.

Achieving resilience requires a lowest common denominator approach, which means using tools, functions and software available across all the cloud platforms in use. “Notably, the exception to this conflict is the VMware Cloud ecosystem: whether hosted in AWS, Azure, GCP, or any of the global hyperscale clouds, or on a local VMware cloud operator, or on VMware Cloud Foundation on dedicated internally managed infrastructure, a common toolset and software stack facilitates a consistent experience for hosted applications,” he says.

While multicloud and its place in digital transformation continues to evolve, Cruise cautions that it may not be suitable for every organisation, and those that do embark on the journey should expect proper implementation to take time.

“Cloud hype has progressed from the urgent ‘move to cloud!’ call of a decade ago, to ‘hybrid cloud rules’ five years ago, to the ‘multicloud or bust!’ message of today. Of course, each of these blanket statements has merit but there is no magic silver bullet for a businesses’ infrastructure requirements. Although the predicted move to cloud has been slower than the experts predicted, I believe that the multicloud story will be slightly more common than niche,” says Cruise.

www.routed.co.za

[Column] Tejpal Bedi: Kenya’s data centres – Essential infrastructure for expanding our digital economy

Although most of us don’t usually spend much time thinking about data centres, they play a fundamental role in the origin, delivery, and maintenance of Internet services and networks. And our need for them is growing as more people use the Internet to join the digital economy. Global traffic surged by more than 40% in 2020 as a result of increased video streaming, teleconferencing, online gaming, and social networking. The number of global Internet users has doubled since 2010, and with that increase comes the need for data centres that can not only cater for current requirements, but also for future loads that require even more complex computing capabilities.

In an African context, countries such as Kenya and Uganda have seen increased investment and interest from multinational operators. We see this with data centre operator Raxio launching its first carrier-neutral centre in Kampala in 2021. Other examples include PAIX building a data centre in Nairobi’s financial district, and Asteroid International expanding its Kenyan Internet exchange service from Mombasa to Nairobi. Combined with the increasing investment from hyperscalers such as AWS, Google, and Meta, the end result of this is more value for end users and enterprises in the East African region, with better speeds, better pricing, and a blossoming digital economy.

In Kenya, more data centres, and their surrounding technology infrastructure, could change how people and businesses engage with global networks and systems. To do that, it’s important to know what that infrastructure looks like, and what it is capable of. 

Inside a data centre

What do you see when you imagine a data centre? Perhaps a giant warehouse filled with endless corridors of blinking server towers, storing data or serving as a junction point through which data passes on its journey from A to B. However, today’s data centres are more complex. They are designed to support multiple on-site and cloud activities, especially when it comes to business IT. A data centre can support email and file sharing customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and databases, virtual desktops and communication services, as well as evolving applications in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Centres are comprised of servers, routers, switches, firewalls, and service delivery controllers, all vital components that work together to deliver comprehensive functionality.

While there are various kinds of centres that cater to specific services, colocation centres and carrier-neutral facilities are two of the most common; both of which serve important purposes for all kinds of enterprises. Simply put, colocation centres offer a space, both physical and virtual, for companies to store and manage their servers and other infrastructure, while carrier-neutral centres are independent entities offering various connection options to customers, including direct connections and cloud services.

The impact of Kenya’s data centres

Considered the gateway to the East Africa region, Kenya plays an important geographical and logistical role in the rollout of Internet connectivity and services on the continent. Our country enjoys the presence of several local facility operators that have grown and expanded in part thanks to acquisitions or partnerships with global operators, while also offering end-to-end solutions for companies of all sizes. Investments in broadband undersea cables and landing stations enable accessibility, connecting the continent to global cloud networks and serving as the bedrock on which Kenya can embrace cutting-edge digital solutions. 

According to the Kenya Data Centre Investment Analysis Report, our data centre market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.36% between 2021 and 2026. Kenya serves as of one the continent’s primary data centre hubs. Nairobi is a favourable location for data centre development, with Mombasa becoming more popular with service providers as well. Data centres enable the growing adoption of big data and Internet of Things (IoT) services, while the demand for original design manufacturer (ODM) servers among operators also fuels growth in server infrastructure. These factors contribute to Kenya’s position not only as a continental leader, but also as an opportunity hotbed for technology sectors. 

Innovation, energy, and the future

Despite this potential, Africa’s hosting capacity remains minimal. The continent’s capacity is only a fraction of some of the world’s largest data centre metros, such as London or Amsterdam. However, new facility construction has accelerated as markets consider hosting and cloud service opportunities. Reliable data centre infrastructure, as offered and maintained by reputable service providers, mean users in Nairobi can utilise AI, blockchain and other digital resources with the same level of security and ease as other users in the overseas metros.

This infrastructure, and its energy requirements, also raises environmental considerations that are being addressed. Growing demand for data centres continues to be mostly offset by ongoing efficiency improvements in servers, switches, and other infrastructure. Combined with mobile networks switching from 2G and 3G technologies to more efficient 4G and 5G ones, data centres are becoming increasingly energy efficient.

From fledgling start-ups to large corporates, we can’t underestimate the importance of data centres when it comes to delivering Internet solutions and unlocking digital opportunities. With data centres offering so much to the Kenyan economy and individual businesses, it’s a good time for companies to prioritise finding reliable ICT partners and service providers of data hosting facilities.

Tejpal Bedi is the SEACOM Managing Director and Regional Head of Sales for the ENEA region.

Submarine cable investment and fiber connectivity to attract more data center investments in Africa, report

The data center market in Africa is attracting significant investments in recent years, led by South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria, and Ethiopia and an increase in submarine cable investment and fiber connectivity is likely to attract more of these investments in the region. This is according to Africa Data Center Market – Industry Outlook & Forecast 2022-2027 report released this week by Research and Markets. 

South Africa has the highest number of submarine cable deployments, followed by Nigeria and Kenya.

In Africa, there are more than 9 data centers that have added the white floor area of around 30,000 square feet area or more each in 2021. Several country governments are taking initiatives by developing special economic zones, and industrial parks, which provide tax exemptions for data center development.

Technologies such as the cloud, big data, and IoT generate more data through high-end applications and need more efficient systems for data processing. These technologies are growing the demand for advanced IT infrastructure in the African data center market. 

According to the report, enterprises prefer servers that can reduce space in the data center environment without affecting performance. The competition between branded and ODM server suppliers will continue because multiple enterprises opt for server infrastructure based on open community designs (OCP). The increasing demand for server shipments will continue to grow moderately as enterprises move to the cloud or colocation platforms for their IT infrastructure operations.

UPS systems are being widely adopted to provide backup power for cooling systems installed in the facility. Cooling systems are essential for the smooth operations of data centers since maintaining an optimal temperature will avoid malfunctions caused by overheating. The adoption of lithium-ion batteries is likely to increase during the forecast period as their price will continue to decline.

In South Africa, the report notes that the market will witness the entry of global data center colocation service providers through independent data center developments and partnerships or via acquisitions by major colocation providers in the country. In 2021, Teraco Data Environments, Africa Data Centre, NTT Global Data Centers were the major data center investors

In Nigeria, the shift of industry sectors such as BFSI, education, retail, manufacturing, and others toward new technologies such as cloud and big data is likely to aid the growth of the market during the forecast period. Microsoft has partnered with the Nigerian government to launch projects in the country aimed at promoting connectivity, upskilling citizens, and increasing digitalization.

Global cloud service providers such as AWS, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle are expanding their presence with new cloud regions. So there is an opportunity for vendors to grow in suburban areas and fuel the demand for hyperscale data centers in Africa.

In December 2021, Equinix announced its plan to acquire MainOne data centers with a sum of around USD 320 million to expand operations in Africa.

The new entrants have a strong opportunity with new innovative technologies of infrastructure in the Africa cloud data center. In addition, the threat of acquisitions is to be also high since global data center operators acquire existing data centers in the region.

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