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Microsoft To Open Azure Data Centres In South Africa

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

‘I had a data centre down in Africa’…Microsoft enters Africa with plans for two facilities in South Africa

Microsoft is to bring its cloud services directly to the African market after it revealed it will open two data centres in South Africa.

This is Redmond’s first data centre expansion into Africa, and the two facilities (in Johannesburg and Cape Town) are expected to be online in 2018.

It comes as Microsoft continues to invest heavily in developing its cloud infrastructure around the world.

AzureAfrican Cloud

Microsoft made the announcement that Azure is coming to Africa in blog posting by Scott Guthrie – Executive VP of Micrsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Group.

The opening of two South African data centres means that Redmond will be able to offer Azure cloud as well as online services such as Office 365 and Dynamics 365 to local users.

At present, African users of these services have to connect to European data centres, and due to the sometimes poor connectivity infrastructure in many African countries, these users have to contend with increased latency and slow connections.

“We plan to deliver the Microsoft Cloud – including Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 – from data centres located in Johannesburg and Cape Town, with initial availability in 2018,” wrote Guthrie. “These new Microsoft Cloud regions will offer enterprise-grade reliability and performance combined with data residency.”

“This announcement brings us to 40 cloud regions around the world – more than any other cloud provider – and will help organisations and people from Cairo to Cape Town accelerate their journey to cloud computing,” he added.

Guthrie also explained that the African data centres was part of Microsoft’s plan “to empower every person and every organisation on the planet.”

Specifically, Microsoft said that these new facilities will help it modernise 728,000 small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) by bringing their firms online. Redmond cited the fact that more than 17,000 firms are continuing to use the 4Afrika hub to promote and grow their businesses.

Microsoft launched its 4Afrika Initiative four years ago. During that time it has launched 15 TV white spaces connectivity pilots, brought over 500,000 SMEs online, upskilled close to 800,000 Africans and helped 82 local startups to grow their ventures.

Redmond also said that the Microsoft Cloud will bring access to training and education, as well as build job skills for more than 775,000 people in Africa on subjects ranging from digital literacy to software development.

Colocation Offering

Microsoft’s decision to build two data centres in South Africa is notable considering that none of the world’s top-tier cloud providers currently have data centres in Africa.

But it should be noted that Microsoft is apparently not actually building its own data centres from scratch in South Africa, but rather they will be collocated at existing facilities.

Microsoft has so far not disclosed who its collocation partner in South Africa will be.

Microsoft has been steadily expanding the global reach of its data centres for a number of years now.

Indeed, the cloud remains an important profit driver for the software giant.

Under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Azure has become Microsoft’s top priority, but some would argue that focus has come at the expense of its biggest unit, its Personal Computing division, and not forgetting the glaring confusion about its mobile intentions.

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