Peter Greaves, expertise leader for Data and ICT facilities at Aurecon, provides insight on how enterprises can better manage data centres within a technologically relevant African context.
With more than 90% of all data being created in only the past two years, and the total amount of data captured and stored doubling on a year on year basis, it’s safe to say that data consumption growth has increased substantially. The sheer size of the African continent, paired with the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is growing faster than the rest of the world means that there are already several hundred million internet users who are demanding connectivity and performance.
The African landscape
This according to Peter Greaves, Aurecon expertise leader for data & ICT facilities. “While it’s true that data centres can be remote, countries, especially African countries, need to start looking at more local solutions in order to ensure data sovereignty and efficient network performance,” Greaves says. This demand will drive a significant amount of data centres being built in both East and West Africa over the next 20 years according to Greaves.
It’s not as easy as it sounds though, with Greaves warning that there are many complexities involved in building data centres that become long-term assets. “Creating long-term, dynamic, scalable data centres in Africa will require us to draw on the key lessons learned from around the globe as well as the knowledge from local experts in the field,” says Greaves.
Along with the costs to build these much needed data centres, there are key considerations to take into account once they’re built, namely energy costs and effective site planning. Regarding energy costs, Greaves believes passive design measures which draw on the local climate to cool data centres can be employed in order to reduce cooling needs.
Developing data centres to this type of model makes profound financial sense, considering they account for an estimated 2% of global energy expenditure. As many enterprises and family homes will grow more and more dependent on data centres in years to come, choosing the correct site is of paramount importance, taking the threat of natural disasters into account. In addition, data centres need to have a significant communications infrastructure from a variety of sources in order to minimise the risk of interruptions and failure, which could have a major impact on a service provider’s customers, according to Greaves.
Furthermore, a successful data centre requires a culmination of IT, facilities, data security and storage skills, to name but a few. There are also a number of compliance and regulatory concerns that need to be adhered to, plus the right people with the right skills are needed for these critical positions.
As such, “done right, the evolution and expansion of data centres will enable the globalisation of the African continent,” says Greaves. “The increasing demand for data centres in Africa will lead to an inspiring, large scale build of data centres and usher in a digital revolution in Africa,” he concluded.