African Datacenters: Understanding Challenges in Emerging Infrastructure in Developing Countries  

September 21, 2014

12:00 pm

Datacenters are built to provide continuous computing operations and network connectivity to high value computing tasks. They are typically used to increase processing power and store large quantities of data and information. They also serve as the backbone of our modern technological society, especially with the growing migration to the cloud. Unfortunately, there are still parts of the world that are lagging behind in datacenter infrastructure, and consequently have difficulties building out, or even operating of these types of systems as they are dependent on structures form overseas.

Technological Discrepancy

There is an enormous discrepancy between the digital technologies within the ‘first world’, compared to developing countries. Developing countries face numerous difficulties in building out datacenter infrastructure such as lack of funding, instability in the regional government, or even being able to generate enough power. While many countries have resolved, or have never faced, many of these problems, many African datacenters struggle to overcome these barriers.

Much like the renowned chicken and egg dilemma, it oftentimes takes existing technologies to create and employ new technologies. In America, since water, electric and utility services can be quickly routed to any remote location; any piece of vacant land can virtually become the next datacenter. Yet in Africa, it isn’t always that easy. Many investors have found that it is easier to upgrade a facility that was used for another task, than to build out a datacenter from scratch. Datacenters that do exist in this region are especially sensitive to resource issues. This is because many existing datacenters in Africa have been built with agility in mind.

Another challenge for African datacenters is the lack of trained and experienced technicians that are needed to operate the facility. Many African countries are lagging behind the rest of the world in their educational endeavors. Without the right set of specific skills, a datacenter is impossible to operate. However, the picture is not all bleak as there are increasing reports that Africa is Ripe with Cloud Opportunities. Large corporate technology companies such as IBM and Oracle are investing in Africa’s emerging cloud market. This in turn is expected to spawn both an African cloud economy and an opportunity for training prospective employees with the skills they need to ascertain.

IBM has committed to a 10 year, $100 million dollar plan that will help Africa implement the Watson supercomputer. The Watson service is expected to “mine data and provide statistics that can be used to improve the quality of life for those living in Africa.” Kamal Bhattacharya, a director with IBM research in Africa recently said, “In the last decade, Africa has been a tremendous growth story – yet the continent’s challenges, stemming from population growth, water scarcity, disease, low agricultural yield and other factors are impediments to inclusive economic growth.”

 

 

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Natalie Lehrer is a senior contributor for CloudWedge. In her spare time, Natalie enjoys exploring all things cloud and is a music enthusiast. Follow Natalie’s daily posts on Twitter: @Cloudwedge, or on Facebook.

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