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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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Konga Eyes Profitability as Turnover Rises by 800 Per Cent

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Konga, Nigeria’s number one composite eCommerce giant, has set its sights on the path of profitability after achieving an increase in turnover by over 800 per cent and a huge reduction in losses over the past 18 months since its acquisition, according to Prince Nnamdi Ekeh, co-CEO.

 

Prince Ekeh revealed that the new management of Konga has succeeded in reversing losses and growing the business to the delight of its new investors.

 

The development has further raised expectations of the company hitting the path of profitability by 2022.

 

He said that “We have reduced cost by over 45% and also achieved growth of over 800% in the past 18 months. We are working very hard to meet investors’ expectations. It is true we are incurring huge losses now based on the e-commerce business model. However, we have 36 months’ cash reserve to build Konga as a success.

 

“We are ambitiously scaling Konga and that is why we launched a successful Konga Travels and Tours that is currently making huge waves in the travel booking industry. In addition, we have other approved projects and new lines of businesses that are set to be unveiled soon.”

 

 

Prince Ekeh recently spear-headed a major Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project anchored by the company.

 

Konga had visited three orphanages in Lagos and Abuja where it donated to the needy and less-privileged. The initiative, carried out under the auspices of Konga Kares – its social investment programme – is also set to hit other states in the country.

 

According to him, the company has put in so much work behind the scenes and is now ready to take the lead.

 

“We have spent the last year restructuring the business and positioning it on a very solid footing. This is evident from the huge strides we have recorded over the period and the several other viable business units and subsidiaries that have taken flight within the Konga Group. Indeed, we are preparing to lead in this space,” he ventured.

 

Prince Ekeh cites a lack of local know-how and huge losses as pitfalls that have encumbered businesses in the e-commerce sector – areas in which Konga stand out.

 

Konga currently operates over 16 physical stores and hubs in Lagos alone. Further, the company has more than tripled the number of strategic stores and mega warehouses nationwide in less than 18 months of the acquisition.

 

Continuing, Prince Ekeh affirmed that e-commerce is a complicated business requiring tact, world-class strategies and creative nous.

 

“E-commerce is not just an extremely expensive project anywhere in the world with initial huge losses. It is a very complicated business.

 

“At Konga, we are locals with a network of quality foreign service providers. We understand the implications of not positioning infrastructure first. This is why we spent the last 18 months indirectly building our own facility nationwide and restructuring technologies to accommodate our ambition. Nigeria will experience the full scale of the Konga retail revolution in the coming months,” he concluded.

 

 

 

 

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Cars45 enhances access to vehicle ownership, rolls out 2 more franchise lots in Lagos

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L-R: Olajide Adamolekun, CFO, Cars45, Oludare Adewale, CEO, Auction.com, Mohammed Iyamu, VP Trading, Cars45 and Head Operations, Carsbazr, John Egwu at the unveiling of the Carsbazr Franchise location in Egbeda, Lagos
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In a bid to take its products and quality of service closer to the consumers, Nigeria’s leading automotive trading platform, Cars45 has unveiled two more Carsbazr franchise lots located in the Egbeda and Shogunle areas of Lagos in partnership with Auction.com Ltd.

 

Speaking at the launch of the franchise outlet, Jide Adamokelun, CFO, Cars45 noted that “for us at Cars45 and Carsbazr, we are always seeking out opportunities to fulfill our brand promise to consumers, that is, providing end-users with a rich variety of verified cars at affordable prices.”

 

“The roll out of these new franchise locations also ties in strongly with our vision to enhance accessibility of the consumers to affordable car sales channels, transform Nigeria’s automotive industry and deepen the values of transparency and integrity that we have brought to that space,” Adamolekun said.

 

It will be recalled that Cars45 provides a detailed 200-point inspection report as well as a grade ranking on all vehicles bought or sold in a manner that reveals the true condition of the cars and empowers the consumer to make a well-informed buying decision.

 

Oludare Adewale, CEO Auction.com, the latest franchise beneficiary said,” considering the brand’s preeminent status, we are very happy to partner with Nigeria’s number one automotive trading platform to enable the public have more convenient options when it comes to buying cars.

“In the few years that we have done business together, we have seen the value they provide to dealers like us in terms of value, volumes and profit margins.

 

“It’s a win-win for everyone and we will work hard to ensure that the current target of 50 franchise locations before the end of year is surpassed.”

 

Speaking on the driving force behind the franchise rollouts, Head Operations, Carsbazr, John Egwu said, “what we are bringing to the market with our franchise rollouts is transparency to the car selling process, driving affordability in a way that says that there is a car for every wallet size and lastly delivering great consumer experiences that is consistent with what you’ll get at any of our Carsbazr retail lots across the country.

 

“We’ll like to encourage other dealerships to take up our franchises even as we create value and enrich the lives of Nigerians with quality services.”

 

With an interesting bouquet of products and services, Cars45 is currently leveraging its partnership with CFAO Motors to sell brand new cars – the Suzuki car models in addition to the foreign used and locally verified used vehicles which the business has been well known for.

 

With its entire vehicle inventory listed on the Carsbazr website, www.buy.cars45.com which records over 6,000 unique visitors every day, consumers can locate vehicles across its lots and franchises.

 

 

 

 

 

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Stakeholders to Partner Ministry to Curb Technology Importation

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IT experts, relevant stakeholders in the communication ministry and ICT related sectors in the country at the weekend advocated for advancement in the digital future of Nigeria.

 

This is in line with consolidating Nigeria’s position on the global internet governance forum.

 

The Nigeria Internet Governance Forum 2019 which was centered on policy dialogue on issues of internet governance held at Muson Center, Lagos and had different IT experts in attendance with the theme as ‘Enabling digital commonwealth for development’.

 

It would be recalled that the Ministry of Communication disclosed that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government would partner with stakeholders in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector to curb the loss of billions of Naira to importation of technology by ensuring digital inclusion for local internet initiative.

 

Istifanus Musa Mik Fuktur, permanent secretary, Ministry of Communications, represented by Moni Udoh, director of ICT at the ministry, while speaking at the event disclosed that the ministry in conjunction with other parastatals especially the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was set to curb billions of Naira loss to technology importation.

 

She stated that the target was to ensure digital inclusion for local internet initiative through education by discussing ways the internet can be used to address the development in achieving the SDGs.

 

Also speaking at the event, Professor Umar Danbatta, executive chairman of Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), represented by Engr. Chidi Diugwu, stated that the Internet Governance Forum was established in July 2006 for policy dialogue on issues and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.

 

At the panelist workshop session, information Technology (IT) experts urged internet users to be mindful of what they post online so as to ensure their safety.

 

The experts deliberated on “Cybersecurity and Trust: Enabling People-centered Data Protection and Privacy Regulations” during the workshop session.

 

Dr. Dimie Wariowei, director, Cybersecurity of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) said that what one uploaded online could be used for criminal acts.

 

Wariowei said that people were now using digital means to transact businesses, accessing banking activities through the phones every day.

 

He said that there were a lot of challenges associated with such actions; hence, users had to be careful.

 

Mr Emmanuel Edet from the Federal Ministry of Justice said that personal data protection was key to being safe online.

 

Edet said that there were different laws in Nigeria that protected people’s data, hence, should be leveraged on.

 

He said that personal data should be protected so that they would not be misused by others.

 

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