Udoaka: Businesses Need Tier 111 Data Centres to Boost Growth

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Business Development Director, Rack Centre, Mr. Fredrick Udoaka, spoke with Emma Okonji on the relevance of data centres to businesses, and how he will use his global experience to address customers’ needs. Excerpts:

Having worked in the technology space for several years, could you list some of the technology companies you have worked for in the past, and what were the experiences like?

I have worked as the managing director at IBM, covering Middle East and Nigeria for five years. I also worked with Oracle as Sales Director for West and Central Africa for three years, worked with MTN Nigeria as Director for Enterprise Business for close to one year, before joining Rack Centre few months ago. My work experiences with these multinational companies have been very awesome and rewarding, and have helped in boosting my career.

Having worked in the capacity of director and managing director with IBM, Oracle and MTN Nigeria, how will you compare your new role with that of your previous roles in other organisations?

I have worked in the enterprise technology space since 2004, and one common denominator among them is about the enterprise business, serving the same kind of customers. My new role in Rack Centre will not be too different from my roles in my previous jobs. And over the years, I have grown to become a trusted person and I also understand a great deal of insight into organisation’s infrastructure, and I quite understand the terrain and the journey with enterprise customers. So my previous experience is making it very easy for me to understand the needs of Rack Centre enterprise customers and how best to address their needs and create solutions that will help the customers better manage their businesses. So my experience at IBM, Oracle and MTN has been very critical to our success in managing our enterprise customers at Rack Centre.

So what exactly attracted you to settle with Rack Centre, after working with bluechip companies like IBM, Oracle and MTN?

The point of attraction for me is the similarities about servicing the enterprise customers, which I have been involved in since 2004. So it delights me to work with an organisation like Rack Centre that manages enterprise customers, which has been my core competence since 2004. Again, another point of attraction is that Rack Centre has business relationship with IBM, Oracle Microsoft and we are strengthening those relationships, because all these companies I just mentioned, are knocking on open doors just like Rack Centre, and majority of their customers have their data seated and managed at Rack Centre.

The business game is changing and businesses are beginning to outsource their data management to a Tier 111 data centre collocation company like Rack Centre. What has informed this decision?

Absolutely correct to say that the business game is changing because organisations are beginning to realise the importance of outsourcing to enable them face their core businesses. When I returned from the UK, I discovered that organisations were investing in data centres in-house, just to host their data and it takes huge sums of money to build a standard data centre with optimal cooling systems. But the game is changing and organisations are moving their data to a trusted collocation data centre like Rack Centre, which gives better management and high efficiency and also helps organisations to save cost.
In the UK, outsourcing of data by organisations is the new business model and organisations in Nigeria are beginning to see such need, and Rack Centre is the best place to manage data, because it is a certified Tier 111 Data Centre by the Uptime Institute, the global certification body for data centre operations.

Having a managed data centre, automatically adds to the operational expenditure (OPEX) of organisations because they have to cater for electricity bills, diesel, maintenance and staff that will manage the data centre. But if such data is allowed to be managed by core data centre operators like Rack Centre, it will save the organisation a whole lot of money.

So what are the core competencies of Rack Centre that will attract organisations to host their data with the centre?

Our core competences are in management of data centre operations 24/7 to increase organisations efficiency when it comes to data operations. Storage requirements of organisations expand as the organisation grows and we have that competence of scaling up and accommodating more data in our centre because we have the expandable facilities to do so.

As Tier 111 Data Centre operator, what is your take on large volume of unstructured data in the technology space?

Yes, there are lots of unstructured data in the society, which makes it difficult for organisations with unstructured data to make instant valid decision. But the good news is that most of the organisation we partner have solutions that address the issue of unstructured data in the country. So at Rack Centre, we have space for such organisations to put their data together and house them with us. One of the solutions is database-as-a-service, which removes organisation’s burden of investing in expensive database licences. So we play in that space by providing the infrastructure for customers who need big data infrastructure and they could go to sleep, with their data running in our space.

As a collocation data centre operator, what would you say are the benefits of a collocation data centre to customers?

The basic service of a data centre is collocation and on top of that, is the managed services and the cloud services. In 2004, when I was selling enterprise data infrastructure, most organisations bought into it, but today, some of them who had such data as legacy data, would want to virtualise it by throwing up resources and making such resources available, thereby reducing OPEX. But as they expand, they will want to bring such data to a collocation data centre for the purposes of collocation, thereby freeing up all IT infrastructure from the organisations’ premises that has to do with data management.

After the collocation, organisations can actually decide to do data managed services by having infrastructure-as-a-service and we are providing that through our customers.
From there they could graduate to having software-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service and ultimately some organisations will say they want to operate in the cloud space and that is the acquisition journey from personal data management to moving data to the cloud. In all of these, organisations stand a better position to manage their core businesses.

What could be the business strategies that have made Rack Centre a successful collocation data centre operator?

Several factors in terms of decision taking have made Rack Centre very successful today. Firstly, out owners, the Jagal Group, had the foresight and vision to invest in modular data centre, which allows customers to pay for what they utilise and gives Rack Centre the opportunity to scale up and double its capacity as demand increases. We have doubled our capacity in the past based on demand and we still have room for expansion of racks to accommodate more data from organisations, and that is the best business model that has really made Rack Centre a successful brand.

Secondly our owners, the Jagal Group decided that we do not need to be a licensed telecoms operator in order to do telecoms business. So there was no need for us to invest in telecoms licence because the Jagal Group decided that we become Carrier Neutral Facility Company and we are carriers to several telecoms companies and we have been able to attract them to do business with us because we are not competing with them in any way.

Again, all the undersea cables that landed in Nigeria, the likes of MainOne, Glo 1, MTN WACS, Ace and the Sat 3, are connoted to Rack Centre. These decisions that were taken by the Jagal Group at the onset of business, coupled with the choice of location of Rack Centre at the highest landscape point, have conferred on us unique selling point of business that has made Rack Centre a very successful brand.

What sectors of the economy are data centres targeting and which area has been most promising?

For Rack Centre, we operate open facility and we target every organisation that operates with data. If you look at technology adoption in Nigeria, you will find out that the financial sector is investing heavily in data through the deployment of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), mobile banking, SMS transactions, among others and they are good targets for data business because they need technology company that will help them manage their data. We have signed business deals with several financial institutions and they are happy with the kind of technology services that we offer them. Again, there is a directive from the central bank that all financial institutions must collocate their data services, and that has raised huge demand for data services from the financial institutions. Apart from the financial institutions, there is also heavy data usage from the oil and gas sector of the Nigerian economy.

What is the relevance of Internet Xchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) to data centre operations?

The relevance of IXPN to data centre operations is huge because it is able to keep local internet traffic local, instead of first routing it to foreign countries like the US and the UK, where most local data were initially hosted and managed. It means that customers will begin to have lower latency and lower cost of business transactions. Again, if there are issues, the customer can easily meet with the host organisation to sought things out, because IXPN is local and locally operated. It has also led to increased speed, better customer experience, reduced latency and it has built customers’ confidence. The development with IXPN is critical to local content development, FinTech players, SMEs among others, because local internet traffic is now being controlled locally within the country.

How will you describe data growth in Nigeria?

Data is growing very fast in Nigeria just like the rest of the world, and we are beginning to see huge data explosion in various sectors of the Nigerian economy and this is a healthy development for business growth in the country.
But what I see is that several government data are in silos. Some are with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Federal Road Safety Corporation (FRSC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the banks, telecommunications operators, among others and there is need for data synchronisation to bring all of these data seated in solos at various locations, to a single data platform where there will be easy access to the data.