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Data Centre Infrastructure is Strategic to Developing Economy – Coker

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Ayotunde Coker is the managing director of Rack Centre a data centre operator. He spoke to Chike Onwuegbuchi on the importance of data centre infrastructure to a developing economy such as Nigeria.

How Strategic is Data Centre Infrastructure to Developing Economy like Nigeria?

It is a very strategic core-infrastructure for the economy. Why? The world is now a data economy and we live in a global ecosystem.

However, if there is lack of quality infrastructure to provide the hosting of data, it underpins everything that is done. So, if that infrastructure is available locally, sovereign data requirement can be met at the right quality.

For us to do what we do, we have to make sure we match the quality provided abroad. In fact, we exceed most of the qualities obtained outside the country and our achievements last year, both as a company and individuals, attest to that.

Secondly, the data centre is a hosting environment that supports the whole range of networks.

We know broadband penetration is key for economic development, but if there is no reliable data centre, locally, where will the broadband be hosted? Again, if there is no interconnectivity, there will be no internet access, which will have negative impact on the economy. Of course, internet access has positive impact on the economy.

Therefore, you start to get IT services at the endpoint of use, which drives growth in the economy. That is the rationale I used to say having very credible data centre infrastructure in the country in the right levels of quality is very strategic indeed.

That brings us to the question around certifications. If we agree a data centre is a critical, underpinning infrastructure for our data enabled economy, then, it is absolutely right that we have the highest quality. And a good sign of the quality is that the certified design is built.

Then, surely, we are interested in getting Nigeria noticed in the global comity of data centre facilities. Although, we have Nigerian sovereign data rules, which by any global standard, is in Nigeria’s  prerogative to have, however, there is still the need  to maintain the global standards which enables us to co-exist and connect to that global ecosystem.

There are still queries about whether the country has the capacity to meet up with the data centre needs locally

If you look at when we started; five and half years now – October 2013, we have been operating 100% uptime. We have also embarked on that journey to educate businesses executives that they not need to build a datacentre but to outsource their data centre requirements instead. Why? It takes time to build that trust- Rack Centre had maintained a 100% uptime, is highly secured, well respected have sterling track records with its customers.

Our customer ratings are consistently high- we are passionate about them and try everything to make sure they are satisfied. We never compromise customers satisfaction. It has been tough but rewarding journey to change the mind-set about trusting locally built infrastructure of this kind. We are proud of the profile we have created for Nigeria in the global data centre space. We still have some work to do- reason being that a lot of our customers collocate with us and they say, “ah, Mr. Coker when are you guys going to build another location,” I replied, “we are working that so we can even bring more footprints closer to you”.

Also, it takes a very brave Chief Technical Officer, CTO, or Chief Information Officer, CIO to walk up to the Board with the preposition of spending millions of Dollars on a data centre. The Board would say, “have you been to Rack Centre” if the CIO or CTO said, “well, I didn’t consider Rack Centre before making the proposal” the Board would say, “please, go consider Rack Centre”. Four years ago, we would be trying to convince customers to come try our facilities.

Today that has changed. We now receive referrals who are interested in colocation. Others who decided to build have sunk millions of dollars, capital that they could have used to improve on their business on the front-end. On quality, how many of those have you seen as properly certified? They have to sleep, wake up at night; think about 24-hours power supply, how to purchase diesel. They have to be worried about the quality of the facility for it to stay up. Speak to any of our customers, they sleep well at night.

Also, with Rack Centre, we deliver a fantastic ecosystem. Overtime, we have noticed that the customers that host with us tend to be very advanced and successful. Perhaps, there is something in the DNA that assisted them to come and host with us. The profile of customers we have here attests to it. Even those that are not successful yet are on the road to becoming successful businesses. So, they see the value in quality service we offer as against issues around cost or “I have to go build by own datacentre”.

Still on capacity, data is exploding and there are two sides to it: One, you can go host your data abroad; however, latency is now a problem. If you look at the connectivity – we have globally respected infrastructure here. It means you don’t need to go abroad to host your data and suffer the latency impact.

How Scalable is Rack Centre?

We are scalable. We doubled our capacity in 2016. We are actually doubling our capacity again. In terms of power supply, we have 1.5megawatts and with the landmass we can build 8-10megawatts. We are also looking at another location in Lagos because our customers are asking for it. We also offer colocation; you don’t have to go abroad for that too.

About three years ago, we launched Cloud-on-Ground service and we have been building that ecosystem, because we realised that part of the reasons people may want to host abroad is due to thirst for cloud-based services. So, by having that reputation, even international companies that have cloud services can partner with us.

So, any company that tells you, “oh, I can’t host my data in Nigeria because services are not available,” can now confidently do that. In the time and journey, we have been, we able to provide support and requirements for colocation for local data hosting and content. The other issue  is that as the local content policies are been enforced, we can assure that the capacity to meet the demand is here in Nigeria.

Service for the SMEs

Yes, that is something that has been missing in the past. SMEs are the heart of the economy. They need access to affordable hosting. That is why we are making footprints in smaller clouds; I mean, this is a key national infrastructure and the SMEs should enjoy local hosting. It will allow us to transform access to IT services offered by SMEs. For instance, if a FinTech company hosts with us, it implies they have locally hosted services to offer the banked or unbanked among us. As their customer-base grows they take more footprints with us.

Now, there are other SMEs that I call the professionals- lawyers, doctors, accountants, consulting firms – start-ups, they need to have efficient IT, because they also need big data. The more we can deliver that to them in an efficient manner, here, the more efficient they become and such services will have significant impact on the GDP of the country.

Issues Around Certification of Data Centres

The best known one is the Uptime Institute (UI) which is a global authority in datacentre quality assessment, training, and setting of best practices guides. They are based in the UK, but a part of US company.  That’s the Institute we used for our certification. There is also the TIA in the US.

These bodies offer certifications on different tiers-I-IV The most popular and commercially viable is the Tier III. Some companies would want a datacentre to be constructed and certified to Tier IV; which is mainly for special purposes. But the Tier III is what most commercial datacentres go for.

Rack Centre positioning as Datacentre Leader in the Sub-Saharan Africa

We are doing a lot. It is an interesting market. I would like to put this in perspective: are we competing with datacentres in South Africa or do we offer better services than they do? I am confident that we are as good as and better than many in South Africa. Scale-wise, yes, they have been active for longer years, but I really do believe we will catch-up and even exceed them. We are the biggest economy in Africa. Lagos State itself is the fifth largest economy by GDP in Africa. And there are other exciting statistics about the Continent that give us that confidence.

However, the reason I wouldn’t say we are competing with South Africa is this: there is a scale in South Africa, but Rack Centre as Tier III is the most connected datacentre now, certainly, in Sub-Saharan Africa.

We believe in Africa. Why? The five undersea cables are directly connected to Rack Centre with about 32 Carriers connected to us. You can reach anywhere in Nigeria; with the four telecom companies we have in Rack Centre, we have most telecom masts in Nigeria connected here.

So, the opportunity for us to deliver the Edge Datacentre Services (EDS) is huge. Every country on the Atlantic coast of Africa is directly connected to us. The two, of those undersea cables, especially the WACC connect from here to South Africa. So, we connect to South Africa seamlessly.

It is a fantastic opportunity to cooperate with South Africa because we connect with datacentres there at low latency. We can deliver services in partnership with some operators there.

Presently, South Africa accounts for 50% of the datacentre (scale) capacity in Africa according to a study by XALAM Analytics, but the potential for Nigeria is huge and significant-if you look at the certifications we have had, the way we are regarded by our customers and the global industry, we are regarded as the premium.

With regards to global recognitions, 2018 was remarkable for us both in Nigeria and internationally as a Leading Datacentre; we were finalists in Datacentre Solutions in the UK (two categories).

In Monaco, last June, we were finalists in two categories too: Best Datacentre in Geophysical location; we won the geophysical location (representing Nigeria). This is against global competitors. In September we were at the Global Carrier Awards in London. We were finalists – Best Datacentre and we won the Best Datacentre innovation, these were global accolades.

Then, I was also given a Trail Blazer Award by the Uptime Institute in July 2018. It is an award given to a person, in a region annually.  Just last month, I got another recognition, the Data Economy magazine top 200 personalities in the world, but I feel much proud about our Chief Engineer, Sunday Opadijo who won the Data Centre Dynamics, Datacentre Manager of the Year, against the world’s best.

I am very proud of that, because this is a young man who went to the University here in Nigeria; he has worked here and he is fantastic. He has been key part of our team. We entered him for the entries and he came top three and went in for the final and adjudged the best by a global jury in the UK.

So, when we talk about Rack Centre being a Premium Datacentre in Africa, it is very validated. The examples of our global ecosystem show that recognition, and our customers attest to it. You know why-one being that those awards are results of validations of our customers, not only indigenous, but also international ones.

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Andela Launches The Power of “X” Campaign

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Andela the company building distributed engineering teams with Africa’s top software engineers, is recruiting mid and senior level developers in 2019, as part of a new Power of ‘X’ campaign, as it looks to scale its operations and meet growing demand. This comes as more companies seek to enhance their technology teams via distributed workforces.

Since its launch in 2014, Andela has received over 140,000+ applications to it’s Technical Leadership Program and has trained 1,000+ software engineers, who have worked with global companies including Safaricom, Invision, Viacom, and Skillshare. Andela now accepts applications from experienced software engineers who are proficient in Ruby, Javascript

(React, Node, ES6+, Angular), Python (Django or Flask) and Native Mobile Technologies for iOS or Android. The move to recruit more senior technologists is an expansion of the company’s business model.

Andela engineers work on global challenges, within global engineering teams, yet play an important role in their local ecosystems. The 1,000+ Andela Software Engineers are central to Africa’s growing tech community, and are leaders or members of Forloop, Teencode, Startup Grind, Progate, Facebook Developer Circles, to mention a few. Andela is a gateway for experienced and talented engineers to become part of Africa’s most expansive network of technologists.

“The most effective way to become the best in your field is to work on the most complex problems and work alongside the best people. Andela’s value proposition is that our engineers work on global problems, within global teams, and are connected to the best engineering community in Africa. By this, we are empowering people to grow exponentially and accelerate their careers” says Omowale David-Ashiru, Country Director, Andela Nigeria.

She continues, “we are excited to be part of the first generation of limitless software engineers in Africa who will play a significant role in transforming the future of technology, which we hope will be central to Africa’s economic development.

“At Andela, we expect our Software Engineers to gain the skills, experiences and networks that will enable them to become innovators and tech leaders in Africa and we are excited to now open up our recruitment funnel to diversify and enhance our talent pool”.

The Power of “X” campaign was announced officially in Lagos this week. Titled, “An inclusive future for the next generation”, and attended by key industry stakeholders, leading technologists and media, the event saw the likes of Bankole Oluwafemi, Editor in Chief at TechCabal and Prosper Otemuyiwa, Co-founder of Forloop share insights about the future of

technology in Africa during their fireside chat session. Andela’s Director of Developer Programs, Jolomi Otumara and Director of Partner Engineering, Olawumi Onawumi who also featured in the chat session, talked about Andela’s plans for the next generation of tech talent in Africa.

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CoinCola Bitcoin Platform now in Nigeria

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Blockchain Technology is rapidly growing in different continents and many more people beginning to see the importance and relevance of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in their different fields of life.

Nations and companies are gradually adopting cryptocurrency in exchange for goods and services instead of fiat. However, the African continent seems to be lagging behind in the adoption of this upcoming technology resulting from the lack of political will to accept the risk of innovation (in Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency). This can further be perceived in the reluctance to adopt the use of cryptocurrency in day-to-day transactions.

Though based in Hong Kong, Coincola aims to provide trustworthy trading and exchange services to all its users all around the world with Africa being a key place of interest.

Coincola believes that Blockchain technology will be essential to providing secure banking and payment services in the future and also that cryptocurrency will greatly improve the convenience of daily transactions and help to create a world that is financially borderless. Hence, our mission is to “connect everyone to this new digital asset economy.

Coincola is an OTC cryptocurrency marketplace and exchange designed to offer the best cryptocurrency trading experience for users and also offer fast and secure trading services at competitive fees and exchange rates.

In the OTC Marketplace, the trading platform allows people around the world to use their local FIAT currency to buy and sell Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Dash (DASH) ,Tether (USDT) and Ripple (XRP). This is done on a person-to-person (P2P) basis. Users can post adverts for free and are only charged a trading fee of 0.7% of the traded amount once the transaction has been completed.

In the exchange market, CoinCola offers Bitcoin (BTC) and Tether (USDT) as base currencies and supports crypto-to-crypto trading pairs with Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Litecoin (LTC).  A trading fee of 0.2% is charged for an exchanged amount. However, there is a fixed withdrawal fee.

The new feature which allows users to trade bitcoin with gift card was added recently to fulfill a highly desired request by African users. Users can now buy bitcoin in Nigeria, Guana and everywhere else in Africa. They can buy bitcoin with gift cards, whether it is iTunes gift cards, Amazon gift cards, Google gift cards, Steam gift cards and more.

At Coincola, security is of utmost priority hence there are multiple layers of security including bank-level encryption, cold storage and SSL, ensuring that customers can trade with 100% confidence.

CoinCola provides an intuitive and easy verification process by building trust and transparency in the Blockchain ecosystem and ensuring compliance using KYC/AML regulations.

A mobile app is available to enable users to transact and trade comfortably while on the move.

Compared to Paxful trading fee which is 5% for every traded amount, CoinCola charges a fee of 0.7%, now, a lot is saved. Trading of your cryptocurrencies can be done via our mobile app or web version however Paxful only has its web version.

CoinCola supports BTC, ETH, LTC, BCH, XRP, USDT, and Dash but Paxful supports only BTC.

Security and users’ satisfaction are our priorities, therefore CoinCola provides a 24/7 full support and inquiry on their platform as well as on their Telegram channel.

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MainOne Pledges N25billion to Digitization of Lagos

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MainOne has launched its “Digital Lagos: Broadband for All” campaign initiative to enable the digital transformation of Lagos state through deployment of ubiquitous broadband infrastructure across the state.

MainOne’s ambition for Lagos is inspired by the vision of Lagos Governor-elect Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who noted presciently that “Technology will improve the rule of law, education, ease of doing business and government processes of Lagos”.

At the campaign launch organized in Lagos to announce its plans earlier in the week, Funke Opeke, Chief Executive Officer, MainOne, said, the company is keen to collaborate with the Lagos State Government and all other relevant stakeholders to build Digital Lagos and help citizens from all walks of life realize the benefits of broad, sustainable economic growth, modernized education, health, and other services delivery, and improved quality of life.

“MainOne is pleased to have the opportunity to present its plan for Digital Lagos, a proven path to ubiquitous broadband connectivity. This plan will involve the investment by MainOne of over N25 billion over the next 2-3 years to develop critical fiber optic infrastructure to enable broadband services across Lagos state,” she said.

A presentation was made by Mr. Judah Levine, CEO HIP Consult, a Washington DC based, independent, management consulting firm with specialization in ICT in emerging markets. HIP Consult worked with MainOne in developing a concept paper and implementation plan for Digital Lagos. Mr. Levine touched on the research done for Digital Lagos, its implementation plans and subsequent impact in Lagos State.

Opeke said MainOne has pioneered investments in critical internet-enabling infrastructure across West Africa, Nigeria, and Lagos. To date, the company has invested over N120 billion funded by leading African banks and has proven its capabilities in expanding and densifying localized fiber networks in neighboring Ogun and Edo States by deploying almost 1,000kms of fiber in partnership with Facebook to expand broadband access and connect government institutions and other areas of interest.

Opeke said, as the licenced InfraCo for Lagos zone, the resulting network to be built by MainOne would provide essential connectivity to critical State institutions, cover over 300 government agencies, up to 10,000 State CCTV locations, Telecom operators and ISPs, public Wi-Fi hotspots, Smart City components / IOT devices, in addition to Enterprises.

In Lagos, MainOne’s existing 700-kilometer network already covers major population centers and Yaba, where it provides connectivity for the majority of the Yabacon ecosystem and has connected startups like Andela, ccHub, Paga, and Flutterwave and others that have raised up to USD500million Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Nigeria.

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