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Apathy killing off interest in govt datacentres

Apathy killing off interest in govt datacentres

The lack of adequate infrastructure, operational differences and mistrust is impacting on interest in the use of government-run datacentres, including by private organisations, say industry experts.

They claim that while these datacentres continue to mushroom in various regions across the continent and are meant to help reduce connectivity costs, enhance flexibility of centralised ICT services and foster business growth, apathy is effecting business.

After China's Huawei completed TelOne's datacentre in 2017, the Zimbabwe telco had to appeal to local businesses to consider using the facility rather than construct their own.

Reports suggest that after completion of Tanzania's largest datacentre in 2016, run by the Tanzania Telecommunication Company Limited, the resource is barely occupied and is not being used to its full capacity.

Ghana's US$138-million National Data Centre managed by the National Information Technology Agency is also reportedly underutilised, due to a lack of skilled staff, among other factors.

However, there are more projects lined up.

The Togolese government is understood to be constructing its first datacentre, a US$21-million resource and Kenya is working with Huawei to develop the Konza DataCentre which will include a national cloud datacentre.

"Some governments in Africa are now making investments in datacentres but -- going by experiences on other continents -- it requires a lot of dedication and focus to successfully build, operate and maintain datacentres. That's a challenge," says Wouter van Hulten, chief executive officer of Pan African Internet Exchange (PAIX).

Van Hulten believes there is a great deal of work to do to provide reliable infrastructure within Africa's cloud industry and maintains the continent is completely underserved by hyperscalers because it is "such an enormous place that it is difficult to get to."

He adds: "The challenge of the continent is the fact that there's so little manufacturing in Africa that you need to import everything, which means you have to get everything through your port into your country."

He also says trust remains an issue and that private private companies prefer to source datacentre services from other private companies and not from governments.

Guy Zibi, Principal at Xalam Analytics, reinforces this notion.

Zibi doubts government-run datacentres are able to effectively serve the needs of the private sector.

He believes the level of trust that is vital between provider and client (especially given that datacentres host critical assets of private enterprises) is lacking with government-run facilities.

"Government datacentres are primarily built to house IT infrastructure of government agencies and public institutions. As such, they are inherently configured to serve those customers and generally lack the traditional benefits of a well-run private datacentres .... Like high levels of security (4-5 layers), a good connectivity ecosystem, a cloud/IT service provider ecosystem, reliable service SLAs, etc."

Babatunde Abagun, Channel Manager, West, East and Central Africa at Nutanix, says the differences in the underlying principles governing business objectives and the operational structure of public institutions can hinder interest in neutral datacentres run by governments.

This gives rise to "the social mindset of privacy and the fear of governments accessing private organisation data."

"Whilst we know the technology prevents this, it's easier when we can avoid it. Also, globally, government datacentre standards differ from those of privately-owned companies. So this would be a constraint," says Abagun.

Xalam Analytics' Zibi adds: "Ultimately, we don't think there's a case for governments investing in data centres to serve the private sector. But there's certainly a case for government investment in data centers to consolidate and host its own server infrastructure."

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