Adegbiji: COVID-19 Has Increased Visibility of Digital Economy

Adegbiji: COVID-19 Has Increased Visibility of Digital Economy

Gbenga Adegbiji was recently appointed Chief Operating Officer, MDXi, a subsidiary of frontline data and connectivity service provider, MainOne. In this interview, he speaks on the role data centers play in the economy while specifically drawing attention to their relevance as the world grapples with COVID-19. Dike Onwuamaeze brings the excerpts:

You have just been appointed Chief Operating Officer (COO) of MDXi. What does this mean to you and MDXi customers?

It’s been an honour to be entrusted with such a huge responsibility, leading the growth and future success of West Africa’s leading Data Center. The good thing is that we have been on the path of operational excellence since we launched our Lekki Data Centre in January 2015.

Our customers can be assured that, with our focus on strategic investments and partnerships with top global technology players, they can expect improved services tailored to their business requirements, allowing them to focus on their core business for the growth of revenues.

COVID-19 was unexpected and unprecedented, how are you able to adequately support your customers during this lockdown period and how has this affected Data Center (DC) operations generally?

Though nobody envisaged the pandemic, I must say that having Business Continuity plans that could be invoked at any time are standard for our data center. We only needed to adapt those procedures to the peculiarities of COVID-19 in terms of health hazards, access requests, health & sanitation screening amongst others.

We deemed it important to quickly align with global best practice in containing the pandemic, while also enabling the safety of our operational staff, our customers and ensuring business continuity irrespective of the lockdown. As you may know, data centers are required to run with the same availability or even higher than before the lockdown and that is what we have done. Our COVID-19 plan has had to restrict access to our facilities to encourage social distancing, excluding emergencies. In such cases, our procedures require the customers to fill out an emergency access form, that highlights critical information about the visitor including recent travel history. Because access to the Data Center is now partly restricted, we have offered the services of our engineers for ‘Remote Hands and Eyes Support’ (RHES) free to our colocation customers. What this means is that, our engineers will carry out physical technical interventions for our customers without their having to dispatch someone to the DC, thus saving them the time and effort. This allows us to keep our embedded operations staff safe and healthy, thus ensuring the Data Center continues to run with effective staffing support on a 24/7 basis.

MDXi has been in service for over five years, providing Colocation and Cloud services across West Africa, how do you see Data Center business post COVID-19?

COVID-19 has only increased the visibility of our digital economy, and the extent to which our society and businesses are connected. Post COVID-19, we expect collaboration across cities, states, countries and continents to drive productivity and innovation will only continue to grow. It is expected that the demand for Data Center Colocation and Cloud services will continue to grow in that context, as more customers realize the benefits of outsourcing their IT operations. Businesses that survive post COVID-19 will have to leverage technology to provide some level of resilience to address what will become the new normal in enhancing social distancing, enhancing safety and convenience by doing business online.

This future will be hinged on the interconnection of everything, and as businesses increase their reliance on technology, data centers will be at the center of that.

Businesses will see the need to leverage shared data center infrastructure to give their businesses the needed edge, in terms of agility, flexibility and overall competitiveness. Our expectations are that, requirements for data center services will continue to go up and MDXi is currently expanding its data center footprint across West Africa in order to address such growth.

MDXi recently unveiled its Azure Cloud services at Nerds Unite 2020, in partnership with Microsoft and HPE, how does this partnership affect services for your existing Cloud customers?

As the first Data Center in Nigeria to offer Microsoft Azure Stack Cloud services to customers, we have enabled companies gain access the same world-class Azure technology available internationally on Public Cloud platforms, closer to home. This reduces latency for these locally deployed applications to under 10ms, resulting in a better experience for end users and ensuring that limitations previously experienced on deploying latency sensitive applications in the Cloud are eliminated.

Our Azure platform also allows customers meet local data residency requirements which companies in certain sectors require for compliance reasons, since the hardware is hosted locally at MDXi. Apart from hosting on our Azure Stack platform, we also help our customers implement Multi-Cloud solutions including Public Cloud options, leveraging our Gold partnership with AWS and Microsoft.

What is the next big thing for MDXi and where?

We remain focused on sustaining our operational excellence while continuing to expand our footprint across West Africa, starting in Ghana with our new 100-rack, Tier III facility in Appolonia City. The city is a fast-growing light industrial park, located within the northern suburbs of Greater Accra metropolitan Area and our facility will span two acres of land when fully built. The facility is designed to world-class standards consistent with the MDXi brand, assuring collocated customers of the highest quality of service to meet their business requirements. We are currently at the ground-breaking stage, with the construction of the facility to begin immediately after the COVID lockdown restrictions. We also commissioned our Abidjan Data Center, in Cote d’Ivoire, last year which is collocated with the Cable Landing Station (CLS) of MainOne. Finally, in Nigeria we are expanding the Lekki-Lagos facility where we are fast exhausting our footprint and starting the expansion of our footprint to Sagamu, Ogun State.

With disruptions that can truncate normal business operations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, what message do you have for businesses that are still running on-premise IT operations?

IT managers are often concerned with the availability and security of their computing infrastructure and that is why sometimes they are wary of moving off-premise. With businesses looking for ways to stay ahead of the competition in our challenging environment, outsourced Colocation services are the best option to deliver high availability, manage cost, ensure flexibility, and provide optimal security. The COVID lockdown has challenged organizations running their critical facilities on-premise; from arranging fuel supply and logistics, managing facility spares, staffing those facilities round the clock and ensuring everything keeps running to support their businesses during the lockdown. In contrast, our customers do not have to worry because they have outsourced those operations to us, to run their infrastructure adequately and efficiently. Not only do Colocation and Cloud services offer reduced operational intensity for businesses at lower CAPEX and OPEX costs, they also guarantee 24/7 uptime, with easily expandable capacity.

Those businesses that have taken the necessary steps in colocation and Cloud deployment are currently enjoying the benefits in this COVID-19 era, while those yet to do so will have to make the right decisions when the pandemic is over or remain at a disadvantage to the competition.

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