ICT Africa Writer
April 28, 2013
Given the unprecedented developments in telecommunication infrastructure deployment in Africa, data centre opportunities are growing in most parts of the continent. In response to ICT infrastructure developments, such as undersea fibre optic cables and terrestrial long haul fibre optic networks, a limited number of data centre operators have responded by deploying co-location data centres. The deployment of co-location centres has not happened yet in most African countries and provides a huge opportunity for data centre infrastructure developers.
Data centres are dedicated spaces where companies can keep and operate most of the ICT infrastructure that supports their businesses. The infrastructure includes servers and storage equipment that run application software and process and store data and content. The infrastructure also includes transmission media such as optical fibre that connect servers and storage media and the data centre to the outside world. For some companies the infrastructure could be a simple cage or rack of equipment and for others it could be a large room housing multiple cabinets of equipment. The space usually has a raised floor with cabling ducts running underneath to supply power to the cabinets and carry the transmission cables that connect the equipment together and to the outside world.
One key attribute of the data centre is the stringent control of environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity. Proper temperature and humidity control ensures the performance and integrity of the equipment inside. Facilities usually include power supplies, backup power, cabling, fire and water detection systems and security controls.
In some countries, regulators require certain institutions to have disaster recovery centres in case of accidental destruction of equipment and valuable data. This requires the institution to setup a remote datacentre as redundancy for whatever server rooms they may have in-house. The Central Bank of Kenya, for example, requires banks to have disaster recovery centres outside their physical premises. In addition to banks, Kenya has had many institutions with services that require datacentres.
The other application that requires the use of datacentres in Africa is Internet exchange. For a long time, Africans had to cope with very high Internet access costs partly because they had to rely on overseas Internet exchange points. The African Union, cognizant of the need to keep African Internet traffic within Africa, has engaged the Internet Society to conduct community mobilisation and technical workshops to support the establishment of Internet Exchange Points in all African Member States as part of an African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) project.
Given the complexity of datacentres, the multiplicity of datacentre applications and the need for competing entities to interconnect with one other, it makes sense for datacentre providers to offer open access co-location data centres. A number of providers, such as Raging Wire, Teraco and Jasco have already been deploying co-location data centres in Africa but they fall too short of the requirements. There is thus a huge opportunity to deploy co-location data centres throughout the African continent.