Microsoft will open cloud data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town, offering Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 from 2018. It is the first international vendor to commit to building its own facilities in South Africa.

These data centres will be the first from Microsoft in Africa, and bring to 40 the number of data centres that the company runs around the world.

Details are not yet available on specifics of the data centres’ build and investment, or whether they will be co-located or 100% Microsoft-run.

However, billions of dollars are being invested in the company’s 40 data centres around with world.

The move is significant for the African market as a whole, and Microsoft SA MD Zoaib Hoosen says it is the next logical step on Microsoft’s journey to empower every user.

The choice of South Africa as the host for the African data centres was based on a number of criteria, he adds.

“Over the years, there has been significant interest from Microsoft in the local environment.

“There are a number of things that we look at when we select a data centre destination,” Hoosen adds. These include issues like skills and a reliable power supply.

The launch of local data centres will offer capabilities like data residency, which has always been an issue for African customers. The ability to replicate data across multiple data centres is another benefit that locally-hosted operations will offer.

The data centres will mirror the structure and infrastructure of the other data centres around the world, Hoosen says. “These will be Microsoft data centres, exactly like all the other regions, with all the same services.”

The eco-system that these data centres will drive are significant, Hoosen says. He believes the move will have an impact on the independent software vendor community.

“We can start getting the services and taking the journey at the same time as the rest of the world. There are some amazing companies in South Africa and this can only serve that.”

Microsoft offers a variety of cloud services, including productivity applications like Office 365; business applications like Dynamics 365; application innovation through the Azure cloud services; data and intelligence; security and management.

These services are available through both hosted and hybrid cloud.

Currently many companies in Africa rely on cloud services delivered from outside of the continent. Microsoft’s new investment will provide available, scalable, and secure cloud services across Africa with the option of data residency in South Africa.

“We greatly value Microsoft’s commitment to invest in cloud services delivered from Africa. Standard Bank already relies on cloud technology to provide our customers with a seamless experience,” says Brenda Niehaus, group CIO at Standard Bank.

“To achieve success as a business, we need to keep pace with market developments as well as customer needs, and Office 365 empowers us to make a culture shift towards becoming a more dynamic organisation, while Azure enables us to deliver our apps and services to our customers in Africa. We’re looking forward to achieving even more with the cloud services available here on the continent.”

Microsoft has global expertise in protecting data, championing privacy, and empowering customers around the globe to meet security and privacy requirements. With Microsoft’s Trusted Cloud principles of security, privacy, compliance, transparency, and the broadest set of compliance certifications and attestations in the industry, Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure supports over 1-billion customers and 20-million businesses around the globe.