The Managing Director, Rack Centre, Mr. Tunde Coker, spoke with Emma Okonji on the need for companies to leverage on cloud computing services for business sustainability and profitability. Excerpts:
Rack Centre is planning to launch a revolutionary cloud technology solution called Cloud on Ground. What does it mean and how does it work?
In the last 10 years technology solution providers have been talking about cloud computing and how data could be stored in the cloud for safety and easy accessibility, but today, technology is evolving and we at Rack Centre concluded that data could be stored locally in the cloud, without having to host the servers in foreign countries. Yes we are always focused on our key business, which is collocating data but we felt it a better business sense to build cloud locally that will enable more organisations store their data in the cloud locally, without facing the risk or challenges of hosting data outside Nigeria. This exactly led to the concept, Cloud on Ground, which means cloud is here with us and no longer hosted outside the shores of Nigeria as it used to be.
So Cloud on Ground relates to a whole ecosystem of cloud provision capability, where various cloud solutions from West Africa, are hosted in Rack Centre in Nigeria. So Cloud on Ground is a market place where people have access to do different kinds of businesses. It is a comprehensive market place and an ecosystem for all the key facilities required to consume cloud services, while the data sits in Rack Centre in Nigeria. The idea is not to serve only the interests of big corporate organisations, but also the interests of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). We believe it is going to transform technology in West Africa and Nigeria because it will make technology more accessible to SMEs and corporate organisations.
The term Cloud on Ground, is it a nomenclature or is it the actual movement of the cloud environment from the sky to ground level on earth?
Cloud on Ground is about the movement of cloud from one environment to another, and not necessarily moving cloud services from the sky to earth. What the Cloud on Ground technology actually means, is taking away cloud services from one environment to another. What we are saying is that we have moved cloud services to Rack Centre, where data will be hosted in Nigeria, instead of the usual practice of hosting data outside the shores of the country and cloud services rendered from outside the country because the server is seated and controlled from the host location outside the country in Europe and other continents.
So what is the economic value of Cloud on Ground to Nigerian businesses?
The economic value for businesses is enormous. It will give businesses easy and faster access to their data stored in the cloud, it will reduce cost of buying rack for storage purposes, since the services can be deployed locally within Nigeria. A typical technology startup pays huge amount of money to have access to foreign services, but since we have the cloud in Nigeria and the services are rendered locally, it will reduce cost of doing business in the country, thereby saving more money. Again, local services will be paid in naira denomination as against foreign services that demands payment in dollars. Business owners will pay more if they pay in dollars, considering the devaluation of naira against the dollar. So it gives room to save more money, use the money to scale up the business and this will bring about increase in technology innovation.
If you are to value it in monetary terms, how much will SMEs be saving when they use Cloud on Ground service?
It is not just about the monetary value, but the flexibility, access and ease of doing business that will transcend to huge money making. For instance, when the services are hosted outside the country, SMEs hardly have access to it because of cost implication, but since the services have been brought to Nigeria, they will have access to it easily and what that means is that it will help in scaling up their businesses faster than they ever imagined. Again, before now, most corporate organisations try to build their own data centres and this is capital intensive. They were not only spending too much money, they were also not focused on their core business. So with cloud services in their environment, they will not spend money building data centres and they will have more time to think of how to offer their customers with the best of services. So by bringing cloud to Rack Centre in Nigeria, companies can collocate with Rack Centre and also have access to other services that are in line with their businesses.
How prepared is your company to accommodate the number of companies that would want to host their data in Nigeria with Rack Centre?
The idea of bringing Cloud on Ground to Nigeria is to be able to accommodate data from SMEs and big corporate organisations.
SMEs can come in and with time, scale up their businesses from small to medium and to big organisations. Corporates can also come in and get immediate access to computing services that they do not need to build by themselves. So from that point of view, the capacity of our racks has been expanded and the racks are designed in such a way that it is scalable and can meet customers’ needs as their businesses expand. In terms of scaling, we focused on our core co-location business, and ensure there is extra capacities to accommodate customer expansion demand. Rack Centre has a modular design to double capacities as demand increases, and in the last six months, we have doubled our capacity. We currently have a Tier 111 Data Centre and we are the most connected data centre in West Africa, and we can expand the capacities of our racks from our current rack capacities.
Is your Cloud in Ground services limited to Nigeria alone or it extends to other countries?
I had earlier mentioned that we are the most connected data centre in West Africa and we are carrier neutral, which means more organisations can have access to our service offerings. We are connected to all the undersea cables that berthed in Nigeria and the whole of West Africa. This means that we can offer efficient cloud services in the whole of West Africa.
Is Rack Centre in partnership with any organisation in driving this initiative?
Yes we are in partnership with some organisations, and through the partnership, we were able to create an ecosystem that will drive cloud computing in Nigeria. Each organisation in the ecosystem has its role to play. For example, Web For Africa is one of the partners that provides web hosting and domain registration; Guarantor, a Nigerian company, provides Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and other services; Seige provides the enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform; Business Connexion (BCX), provides connectivity services, among other partners that Rack Centre is working with in the ecosystem. All these organisations provide the comprehensive cloud service for customers.
Before now most companies were afraid of hosting their data in the cloud for fear of people gaining unathorised access to their data. To what extent have you been able to convince customers about security, now that Rack Centre is bringing Cloud on Ground to Nigeria?
Providing secure service is an absolute core business of Cloud on Ground services. The solutions that we have put in place, have world-class security standard, which give assurance of data safety. At Rack Centre, physical security is guaranteed. All services and servers hosted in our centre are secured and we have not experienced downtime since the inception of Rack Centre in Nigeria. We have 10 levels of security and for us, security is absolutely essential and we have been able to prove that before our customers over the years.
How could technology help drive the Nigerian economy in time of recession?
Technology is an enabler and could protect economies from going into recession and could also help countries who are already in recession to come out of it, by creating the right and enabling environment. Nigeria needs to create awareness around technology and encourage the use of technology by creating policies that will not stifle technology growth. Nigeria should be able to drive all its processes with technology and ensure the country has sound e-government in place. With e-government strategies, government becomes more efficient and innovative, using technology. Manufacturing companies should be encouraged to use indigenous technology and local content to become much more efficient in manufacturing local products. Nigeria should depend less on foreign products and encourage local manufacturing companies to go into local production, using technology as the driver. Business should be able to leverage technology for improved efficiency.
How will the Cloud on Ground concept help to drive local content development in the country?
Research has shown that if a company spends $10 million on local content, the result will be over 10 fold impact on the local economy. Rack Centre, for example, has all its technical staff made up of Nigerians. In terms of Cloud on Ground, we are building a base that is an enabling transformer on the economy, because it will give access to many local companies that would not have been able to afford hosting their data in a cloud environment that is remotely controlled from Europe and other parts of the world.
Rack Centre has been passionate about hosting and building local content in the technology space. How has this passion been translated into economic gains for your customers?
Yes we have been passionate about local content development in Nigeria, hence we built a Tier 111 Data Centre in Nigeria where organisatiins could host their data locally and save a lot of cost. Local businesses that have been doing business with Rack Centre can testify to this. We have saved them the challenges of running around looking for foreign currencies to pay for products and services, because we now have the facilities in Nigeria.