Independent data centres in East Africa score over telco-owned facilities

Posted on November 24, 2013 05:13 am

Independent data centres located in favorable areas with better of better connectively and unlimited customer access has seen a huge increase in demand in East African region are giving their much bigger rivals owned by Telecom companies a run for their money according to the latest industry statistics for 2012-2013. Huawei Technologies, the world’s second-largest telecommunications equipment maker, and several private investors are among those who have invested heavily in setting up data hosting and logistics centres in East Africa. Data centres have become critical in organizational IT strategies in the region as a result of substantial increased demand of application and content access from any location and at any time. In East Africa, a data centre mainly provides plenty of services but they largely depend on floor space and total power available. However, higher density server are more power efficient and takes up less space and that has made it cheaper for data centres in the region when it comes to the same amount of processing power.

Research shows that majority of data centres in the region charge according to power consumption and there are so myriad of challenges for centres on how to accommodate everything from someone wanting 400 watts per rack right to 30 kilowatts. Power is a major hurdle in the region with huge power deficits and the fact that most of them experiences power outages on a daily basis. Power is a scarce resource, and by managing it carefully date centre operators can get the benefits derived from economies of scale. Power usage efficiency of a data centre is considered to be critical because the difference between the ratio of total power consumed by the data centre and the one for computing equipment represents the power used for cooling and for running such facilities. Data centres in the region are mainly focusing on the data centre operations and that has helped to effectively eliminates any possible conflict of interest and promote a free marketplace where clients are being encouraged to transact. With help of experts from western countries, India and China, data centres being built in the region have factored in higher power density but the main challenges is that data centres are operating with less than half the capacity and that has affected efficiency.

Unlike in the developed world, clients in the East African region finds it hard to compare costs across data centres on specific costs for power, rack, support, network and other connectivity services. There is hope that proliferation of data centre in the region brings in more transparency, a rare commodity in the business sector in East Africa. Several data centres I have managed to visit physically, tight security and access control measures are common and the same seems to be the case in the region. Many in the region hope that advanced data centre will allow clients to manage their racks on mobile apps and order upgrades online. Others are just wishing there can be an improvements in timely manner which existing players have made a rare feature by not offering real time information on the status of the data centre at a rack level. The more data centres East Africa gets the better, especially as the region has diverse set of clients and that is why entry of independent carriers is welcome. Studies have shown that telco-owned data centres are notoriously known being aloof since almost all of them have made it difficult for other providers to penetrate in there and they don’t allow any provider to have access. That has forced customers in the region get multiple carriers in order to get gain optimum access to a particular regional location. East African client are the near-term focus of this data centres and most of the investments is being made through joint ventures. Me think as much as investors are pumping millions of dollars setting up data centres in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Burundi I strongly believe that Infrastructure sharing, connectivity and efficient power management are all critical ingredients in building a competitive IT industry in East Africa.

Contador Harrison