Data Center

Franklin N. Nnebe (Africa) - Data Centers on The March in Africa

Data centers in Africa are becoming stronger as the rollout of fibre infrastructure has made local hosting much more viable and cost competitive than they were a few years ago.
South Africa has the most sophisticated data center market on the continent with around 25 shared facilities offering a combined 75,000 square meters of floor space, concentrated primarily in its key cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Major ISPs such as Internet Solutions, RSAWeb, Hetzner and MWEB, operate twelve data centers between them - many established in the first half of the last decade. Telecommunications companies such as MTN, Neotel, Vodacom and Telkom also provide value added services; such as managed storage and backup to the corporate market. Recently Teraco, which touts itself as the first commercial carrier-neutral data center provider in South Africa, has built two data centers in Johannesburg and Cape Town, with others planned for key cities across Africa.

North Africa is Africa's second largest data center market due to governments in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia which have actively promoted their countries as ideal locations for business process outsourcing (BPO). The region has an estimated 20 shared data centers in operation. Key players include Link Data - which has since 1996 operated one of the largest data centers with more than 7500 customers in Egypt and the Middle East. GPX, a specialist provider that operating in the Middle East Internet Exchange, the country's first carrier-neutral 4-tier data center providing backup and traffic exchange to Class A ISPs and Hexabyte; a Tunisian web hosting provider has four data centers .

Kenya has led the way in the East African region, leveraging the landing of three big fibre cables on its coast (Seacom, Eassy and TEAM). Telecommunication companies such as Safaricom and Essar all have built data centers offering co-location and backup. Equity Bank has built a $95 million 4-tier data center with excess capacity to be leased to businesses, while Kenya Data networks (KDN), a regional data carrier with extensive terrestrial fibre network, is building a 3-tier, 20,000 square meter data center just outside of the capital Nairobi, to cater for business and the Kenyan government, whose open data project will make data such as expenditure on health, education, infrastructure accessible to the public online.

In West Africa, Nigeria may be Africa's largest telecoms market, but its data center market has struggled to grow in size principally due to serious power shortages that have plagued the country for more than a decade. The country currently has five small shared data centers providing hosting, co-location, disaster recovery and online real-time backup. Four of these are based in Lagos, operated by 21st Century, MTN and Internet Solutions (all ISPs), while Galaxy Backbone operates a government data center in Abuja, a 1-tier carrier-neutral facility that hosts government data and applications.

In the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has strategically positioned itself as a hub connecting Africa, Asia and the Middle East in order to provide mission critical backup and IT disaster recovery services. The tiny island nation has four data centers and has gone one step further by innovatively developing a 104 hectare eco-friendly business park targeted to the industry that will cool data center servers using cold deep ocean sea water.

For Africa, the next few years promise to be an exciting for the burgeoning data center industry. Aside from business continuity, local caches of popular global sites such as Google, Facebook and YouTube have been installed at African data centers, and local content will follow next. In addition, with over 100 million Africans using mobile phones to access the internet, cloud-based hosting will allow for improved mobile applications to overcome the limited memory and storage space of mobile phones.

By Franklin N. Nnebe, Managing Director, Nnebe Business Services Ltd



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