Exciting times: Data center developments in South Africa

Posted by Videsh Juggernarth on 10 Jul 2019 1:35:00 PM

Local data centre developments in South Africa

Proper infrastructure and increased connectivity has given rise to local data centres. What are the benefits of having data centres on home ground and how will this change business in South Africa, and the continent as a whole? In this blog  we explore the development and impact of local data centres in South Africa. 

When we talk about data centres we also need to talk about the cloud. Data centres are physical servers that reside in specific locations, while the cloud relies on these data centres to operate. Data centres provide the necessary infrastructure for high-speed connectivity and are therefore the heartbeat of any cloud service. Globally, data centres have provided business solutions that not only save time but also money. So why has it taken so long for local data centres to be implemented in South Africa?

Data Centres in South Africa: why now?

The simple reason is a lack of infrastructure, without which it is impossible to fully utilise cloud services. Liquid Telecoms has been instrumental in building the infrastructure required to host local data centres. By laying the groundwork for high-speed connectivity with fibre, LTE, Seacom cables as well as 5G connections, they have ensured that local data centres have become feasible. 

With connectivity, many companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Huawei -  who all have data centers in Johannesburg and some also in Cape Town - have realised the opportunity that Africa, and particularly South Africa, holds. Companies view Africa as a continent full of untapped potential as many countries in Africa are emerging markets. Companies such as Amazon and Microsoft see this and want to get in early so they can establish their presence and benefit from the competitive advantage of being first. Their belief and interest in Africa is so strong that the MD of Microsoft South Africa, Lillian Barnard has stated that opening data centres will help power the fourth industrial revolution.

Connectivity is the missing piece & access to data changes everything

Connectivity has opened up opportunities and levelled the playing field for businesses and individuals alike. It has also given rise to viable use cases for data centre - related technologies in South Africa. Once you have connectivity, then it is just a matter of time before people start moving to the cloud. 

As organisations move away from business models that require large upfront infrastructure investments, cloud solutions become more appealing. Capital that would usually be tied up in the cost, maintenance and upgrading of the building now becomes available to grow other parts of the business. For example, within an SME an investment can shift from infrastructure to research and development (R&D) - and this is a game changer! Companies can become billion - dollar companies in a much shorter time. Uber and Airbnb were born out of the cloud. An app can be developed without the need for an expensive high spec PC. 

On-premise solutions also incur additional risks such as the possibility of losing data through events such as fire or water damage. Moving to the cloud eliminates these risks completely and shifts the cost of ownership from the end consumer to the service provider. 

Data centres, and as a result cloud services, allow business solutions to be easily scalable and rapidly deployable -  and best of all - everyone from corporate powerhouses to SMEs will benefit. A complex rollout will be available at the click of a button.

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The benefits of local data centres in South Africa

Global data centres have been available to South African companies for a while now, so why switch to a local data centre? Local data centres solve issues around compliance, latency, and security that global data centres cannot. These benefits are also industry-specific. For example, an organisation in the financial services space would enjoy benefits that are different from an organisation that works in another vertical.

1. Compliance: some data needs to remain within SA borders

The physical location of data has become a very important aspect that organisations need to take seriously. Failure to comply with GDPR abroad and POPIA locally could have far-reaching financial and reputational implications. Businesses need to realise the importance of data compliance in an ever-changing regulatory environment. Data that is stored locally and does not cross any borders -  such as in the financial, insurance, medical and governmental sectors - , opens up new opportunities for industries that rely on data privacy.

2. Latency: real-time connectivity

Esports continues to grow around the world but is dependent on fast internet and requires the infrastructure that a local data centre would provide. South Africa has historically not had access to this until recently when AWS (Amazon) announced it would use its local data centres so that South Africans could play Fortnite. This will also help local players compete against other players at an international level. Online gaming is highly reliant on good levels of latency as most of the actions need to be processed in real time. Customers expect instantaneous connectivity and a server that is geographically closer to the user provides this service. 

Latency issues are not limited to esports. Other industries also benefit from reduced latency. A good example is the medical sector where surgery can be performed remotely with no delays which could have serious consequences. In logistics, a sleepy driver could be told to pull over before falling asleep at the wheel. In mining, oxygen levels can be monitored to avoid disasters.

3. Security: world-class security now available in SA

The security environment in the cloud space is ever - changing. New threats and attacks are always imminent, and service providers work hard towards making sure they are prepared. The market is extremely competitive and security is constantly evolving. End users, who work with Nashua Communications, always have access to the most cutting - edge security solutions. 

How do local data centres compare to their global counterparts?

The short answer is that data centres around the world are set up in the same way. Latency issues or a loss of connectivity can have life or death consequences in certain situations. So if a data centre in one country fails, it will automatically be rerouted to a data centre in another country. The architecture needs to be uniform for this failsafe solution to work. In most cases, the end user won’t even know about or notice this seamless shift. 

However when it comes to data, if it needs to be localised, it will be dumped if a data centre fails. This is to ensure that the data doesn’t go across borders and remains compliant. Services on the other hand, have a 99.99% uptime with Microsoft according to the SLA. This means that services like email, voice, etc. are guaranteed to work for most of the time. 

At Nashua Communications we make sure that we profile our customers in order to understand the needs that are specific to the verticals in which they operate.  Not only do we help with the setup, but we are a service partner that will provide solutions, as well as manage and maintain the environment. 


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