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Infrastructure at the heart of digitalisation

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Kathy Gibson reports from Infracom 2016 in Midrand – In an age when every user has at least two or three devices, and accesses a multitude of apps and services, our reliance in IT infrastructure has increased enormously.
Uptime Institute’s Phil Collerton point out that technology seems to be everywhere. “So the whole world is increasingly reliant on this ubiquitous Internet,” he says.
For Africa, this offers opportunities, with our young and growing population. The continent also enjoys high mobile penetration with little legacy infrastructure to contend with.
In South Africa, we have well-developed infrastructure and stable political environment; a well-educated labour force, we are a data bug and transit point for data flows; and people are getting progressively richer.
The African data centre market is growing by three-times to six-times faster than European.
South Africa still have the largest data centre footprint on the continent, but most of it is still locate in the enterprise sector,
A recent Uptime survey indicates that CIOs would like to use more cloud services.
“That means there will be a need for more data centres,” says Collerton. “Data centres are strategic assets supporting all this growth.”
Uptime recently surveyed managers about cloud.
Currently enterprise has about 71% of the IT power in its own data centres, the rest hosted or in the cloud.
But more than half of executives expect the majority of the IT compute power to be off premise in the future – and 23% expect it to happen next year, with 70% aiming for 2020.
Driving this is the decreased or flat IT budget, and the shrinking enterprise server footprint.
Currently, 75% of companies are operating some of their IT workloads outside of their own data centre. But there will be a dramatic shift to cloud in the next two years, with 56% of workloads in the cloud compared to 38% today.
“It’s not all sweetness and light, though,” says Collerton. The biggest risk factor is security, followed by compliance, regulation and certification; and then by location and sovereignty. Adding to the risk are budget and migration issues.
Interestingly, 60% of respondents said that if they could do it all over again, they wouldn’t build their own data centre but would go straight to the cloud.
When they choose a colocation partners, security is the top issue, followed by redundancy, quality of service – so the top issues re around risk and availability.
The next set of criteria are around connectivity, including latency.
Customers are pretty happy with their colocation partners, with most customer satisfied or very satisfied.
But there are still some issues they need to focus on. More than 40% of companies are paying more for colocation that they expected, nearly one-third have experienced an outage; and more than 60% say that the SLA penalty cause doesn’t adequately offset the cost of an outage.
“These are things service providers need to think about if they want to attract more enterprise customers,” Collerton says.
It’s clear there has been a shift to the cloud, along with an increased focus on hybrid data centre architecture with a mix of hyperscale, colocation and owner-managed systems.
“People are looking for more for their money,” Collerton says. “They want their service provider to offer security and reliability – but they also want to save money.”
There are 10 major design trends for data centres, four ow which are very relevant for South Africa, Collerton says.
The first is modular, standardised designs. There is a move to prefabricated, more modular data centres that include more reference design and greater choice around repeatable elements.
Hyperscale innovation is also driving change, Collerton says. It offers very high efficiency, its own design equipment, power and cooling innovation, automation, integrated IT and facilities, and large scale purchasing. They have the effect of driving down cloud and service prices.
Lower cost builds are becoming prevalent – people are spending less money on data centres. It is becoming an industrialised process, with modular buildings, reference designs and shared expertise, open compute models, and best practice. The impacts are lower costs, greater reliability, consistent performance and on-demand purchasing.
In addition, the edge is becoming more important. The global grid is seeing a move from super nodes to micro data centres located closer to where the devices are.
This allows for content distribution to alleviate bandwidth and latency constraints. These edge data centres will complment remote demand for distributed data centre capacity.