Microsoft’s announcement in May 2017 was a huge milestone for its cloud aspirations with news it will be launching new data centres in Africa. From 2018, African enterprises will be able to take full advantage of the many benefits of Microsoft Cloud while maintaining full data residency. The plans include providing Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 services.
Microsoft says it has 500,000 cloud users in Africa, and the first customers will be able to connect to local servers in 2018. The presence will make South Africa the 15th country with a local Azure service, and reflects strong competition for cloud services.
The overarching benefit of offering local data centres is that customers in the region should experience much faster cloud services, as the data has less distance to travel between a customer’s premises to the data centre. So rather than having to route data transfers to the nearest servers, which have likely been in South West Asia or Europe, customers in Africa will be able to access the new data centres in South Africa. That said, companies located in North Africa, at the opposite end of the continent, may still be better off using data centres in Europe, due to their greater proximity.
While cloud adoption in South Africa is developing, there has been some reluctance to use services that are physically based overseas because of an incoming data-protection law. While the new law will not mandate that personal information has to be kept within its native jurisdiction specifically, some have been advising that it would be the safest way to guarantee compliance.
As the first cloud provider to build new data centres in Africa, Microsoft will have a competitive advantage over its rivals for private and public sector clients. Jon Tullet, research manager for IT at IDC Africa pointed out,
“Amazon is the 800lb gorilla in the room. They dominate the cloud space and at this stage almost anything that Microsoft or Google can do, Amazon either already has or can build quickly. Now, Microsoft can stand up and say they can deliver locally hosted resources that allow for in-country data governance, and Amazon can’t. Microsoft has a strategic advantage which is significant, though possibly for a short window.”
The South Africa office is extremely excited by the prospect of the investment in new data centres in South Africa as it gives our customers greater choice when purchasing one of our meeting solutions. Many of our customers chose a solution that hosts their data on eShare’s own data centre in South Africa is ISO27001 compliant, because they were reluctant for their data to leave the country. Any hosting solution has to ensure they are fully compliant with international security codes. As digital transformation takes hold around the globe, the future progression of business capabilities in South Africa has now accelerated in its pace, which is something we will be keeping a close eye on.