Main One to offer Infrastructure as a Service in April in partnership with EMC and Microsoft

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The transition to cloud based services in Lagos is coming into view. As the Lagos Infraco, Main One wants to be able to offer pervasive fibre and is launching Infrastructure as a Service with EMC and Microsoft. Russell Southwood spoke to its CEO Funke Opeke about where the market has got to,

Main One’s independent data centre in Lagos launched in mid-January this year. It has 600 racks and is adjacent to its cable landing station in Lekki. Opeke says that:”Interest globally has been phenomenal” but it hasn’t yet sold a lot of racks.

Nevertheless, it is aiming the facility at three categories of customers. The most obvious category is banks and businesses that are putting more of their business online.

In order to do this, they have a need to step up their data centre infrastructure and also require a back-up facility for their growing data centre:”We’ve had a bank at the cable landing station for two years and they’ve moved to the new data centre.” Some visitors to the new data have been sufficiently impressed with the new facility that they are considering making it their primary data centre.

The second category of customers are tech companies that need to be able to offer data centre services as well as connectivity and connections to other networks. In due course, as with Teraco in South Africa, the data centre is likely to become a significant meet point for a variety of different operators:”We’re the best connected data centre. All the large operators and ISPs are connected with us and we connect to as many as 10 major operators. We’re becoming a meet point.”

Indeed Main One is partnering with two of these tech companies – EMC and Microsoft – to launch an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) product in April. This includes things like private clouds, virtual LANs, cloud hosting on virtual servers and virtual data centres:”We’re currently running a couple of pilot customers and want to be able to offer this for e-commerce companies in Nigeria.”

The data centre sector in Nigeria is a combination of proprietary facilities run by mobile operators and ISPs and independent facilities. There are currently two main independent facilities, Main One and Rack Centre, the former is in Lekki and the latter in Ikeja.

But as Opeke observes:”Two data centres does not an industry make so we continue to collaborate. If someone wants to make us their primary data centre, then they can back up at Rack Centre and vice versa.” MTN is also upgrading its data centre but beyond that there are only relatively small facilities.

But is the broader connectivity picture changing yet?:”A few years ago in Nigeria banks had their main interactions with customers through their branches and head office. Now customers are able to access services 24/7 on the internet. We’re talking to a Government agency in Nigeria that wants people to be able to access its services from all over the world 24/7”.

“Banks also need to need to be connected to their branches and across the world and have taken on more bandwidth to do that.” The extra bandwidth, increased infrastructure and much lower latency means that banks can now operate enterprise software like SAP.

So is the market yet read for cloud services?:”Not yet. But we see it moving to Infrastructure as a Service as an OPEX model over the next 18 months as global service providers move into the space. The adoption of Microsoft’s 365 Online has been phenomenal. These models are becoming more attractive to big businesses. There are no major players yet because it needs the applications but we’ll see an explosion in the cloud over the next 18 months. We have one customer testing a platform and another about to come on.”

So what are the remaining connectivity blockages?:”We still need to extend the reach of the fibre and offer affordable connectivity to people who need it and that’s really only cost effective when we use our own infrastructure.”

Main One won the bid to be the Lagos Infraco:”Once we do that, then we can extend our services and become pervasive and then you’ll get the next generation of the cloud. We’ll be able to say to anyone who has a good idea as a start-up, maybe it will be the next big start-up, come and use the data centre.”


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