Nigeria: Pushing the Frontiers of Data Centre Management in Nigeria

Computing

Today, in Nigeria and other parts of the globe, more companies and individuals rely on data centre services provided, sometimes through the cloud, even in remote locations scattered across the world for their businesses and other needs.

Indeed, data has a big impact on almost any industry you can think of in today's Digital Economy. Needless to say that the computer industry is touting the big data revolution, whereby individuals and businesses are generating and storing more data, and leveraging readily available computing power and analytics to generate new insights and revenue streams.

These data driven activities include streamlining business processes, understanding and targeting customers, monitoring equipment, the environment, public spaces and all manner of situations with the "Internet of things", conducting online transactions and much more. This Data is being collected as business and social activities have moved increasingly online and are collected from a wide variety of sources - websites, social media, embedded tracking devices, financial payments and transactions, and mobile phones to name a few.

Data, being generated from every industry, business function and facet of our lives is now a critical input to production, alongside labor and capital.

According to research from IDC, just about 1,000 organizations were storing one petabyte or more of data in 2010. In less than eight years, by 2020, the number of organizations storing one or more petabytes will skyrocket to 100,000.

EMC, a leading global storage vendor reported taking from 1991 to 2005 to ship its first exabyte of data. In 2013, EMC, for the first time, shipped more than an exabyte of storage in less than a month.

With data quantities growing steadily, the explosion of data is putting a strain on IT infrastructure, with more companies having to increase their data center capacity with more servers and storage.

Managing the volume of data is just one challenge that companies are faced with in today's world, there are also challenges in ensuring that the data is analyzed, stored securely and always available and accessible round the clock. Furthermore, businesses need to be flexible in responding to customer's needs and often times, what might appear as a simple change in business operations could have significant impact on the data generated and in turn the data center infrastructure required to manage the change. Consider global firms like Akamai that analyzes 75 million events per day to better target advertisements. With over 900 million active users, Facebook is the busiest site on the Internet and generates 500 terabytes of new data every day.

According to Facebook, "loading a user's home page typically requires accessing hundreds of servers, processing tens of thousands of individual pieces of data, and delivering the information selected in less than one second." The common thread for these companies and indeed many businesses today is that the impact of not having real time availability to data has dire implications on the revenues and profitability of the business.

Faced with these new challenges of effectively managing the growing volume of data, companies are now forced to develop a more strategic view to managing their data centers. Traditionally, data centers were viewed as environments that provide basic power, cooling and fire protection to ensure that access to data from within the same office or connected remote offices was relatively stable. In this light, data centers were viewed as back office IT infrastructure with minimal impact on the business.

Today, a more strategic approach to data center operations is required because data center decisions for most companies doing business online, will have a direct correlation to overall competitiveness and results of the business. These include not only availability and performance but, even more important, the ability to respond rapidly to business opportunities and changes in the competitive landscape. This focus on business outcomes can result in significant payoff for organizations where revenue generation, innovation or competitive advantage is the goal. For example, in 2011, Facebook revealed that it had invested $1bn in data center infrastructure. While this might appear as a huge cost, the investment paid off with Facebook recording revenues of $3.7 billion in the same year.

Nigeria Imploding with Data

In line with global trends, Nigeria has not escaped the data boom either. With the landing of submarine cables on the shores of Nigeria, Internet penetration has more than tripled within the last decade. Nigerian businesses are fast adopting e-business models, as new policies and regulations increase the volume of electronic based transactions, and the awareness and adoption of social media platforms have all contributed to the data explosion.

This trend is expected to increase; 80 per cent of Nigerians expected to have access to the Internet by 2018. The increased uptake of mobile subscriptions and internet usage is expected to increase even faster as local content on the Internet increases and more people gain awareness and understanding on the relevance to their businesses and daily transitional activities.

As a result, IT managers are faced with the challenges on how to evolve their data centers to become more relevant to their business. Many have been caught unawares with the data explosion and are literally bursting at the seams in their current facilities. For those that are better prepared, disaster recovery and business continuity remain major topical issues. Most admit that they contend with the decision of whether to keep all their data in an internal data center, an offsite data center or in the Cloud. Many still battle with availability and accessibility of their data centers and even moreso, the skills and resources to adequately manage data center operations and processes.

While some organizations may find it reassuring to have full control over their data in an in-house data center, the investment required to build and operate the modern data center that offers competitive advantage and is flexible enough to adapt to changes in business requirements or changes in technology, is quite significant. It is for this reason that increasingly, more businesses find it more effective to outsource data center operations to a professionally managed data center service provider. Doing so offers good results in operational and staffing efficiencies, achieving greater levels of flexibility and frees up the business and its resources to focus on strategic initiatives that drive the growth of the business.

Impact of players including MainOne

MainOne helps businesses in Nigeria achieve robust data center strategies and efficiencies. By leveraging on its world class Tier 3 Data center, customers are guaranteed superior service levels and availability than most are able to achieve with in-house data centers.

Source: The Guardian 12 November 2014