Data: the outsourcing question

August 17th, 2016, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT


Outsourcing your data is no longer an “if” or a “when”, but rather a case of where and what to outsource. According to Lex van Wyk of Teraco, when designing new office buildings, large enterprises no longer plan for on-premise data centres but are instead opting for hosted solutions in colocation data centres. This he said, not in his capacity as CEO of a large vendor-neutral data centre group, but rather because of the rapid adoption of cloud.

Lex van Wyk

Lex van Wyk

He said that cloud is finally finding favour in the corporate sector. At this stage we see companies and even financial institutions implementing hybrid cloud with some data in the cloud and some, which they may consider sensitive data, in their own facilities which more often than not are situated in a hosting data centre.

One of the drivers for companies opting to create their own data centre space in an outsourced facility is the lower cost and the availability of secure and multiple connectivity feeds. It is more cost effective to build a data centre in a hosted facility where specialist staff take care of all the physical requirements such as uninterrupted power supply, and a secure air-conditioned environment. Remote access to manage the equipment adds to the attractiveness of the outsourced model.

The dilemma that some companies face is making the decision of what to outsource and where. The question of what to outsource is often about security. How secure is the cloud? This depends very much on the company you choose. But look at it this way, the large cloud providers can deploy many more resources for security than the average company who may have an IT manager who only looks after the security of the network. It can be very challenging to develop this kind of expertise in-house, and it can also be expensive, where often only larger cloud providers can afford it and offer better cyber security.

The other consideration is where to host, a vendor-based or a vendor-neutral data centre. Van Wyk says it is about access to your data. In vendor-neutral data centres, companies will have access to their data through more than one carrier. A company which initially opted for a hybrid solution on equipment in a vendor-neutral data centre has more options to move operations into the cloud as many cloud providers are situated in vendor-neutral data centres offering more choices with simple and secure interconnects.

There are over 20 cloud providers offering their services in Teraco data centres. Some will provide infrastructure as a service, some will offer software as a service and others platform as a service. It all depends on what a company requires. What is unique is that a company can contract infrastructure as a service from one provider, a platform as a service from another company and an app from someone else. So if a company requires an accounting package they can select the service from a number of companies in the vendor-neutral data centre in the cloud.

The question arises as to whether vendor data centres still have a place in business. They definitely do, according to van Wyk. There are, and will be in the future, many companies whose requirements are catered for in their vendor’s data centre. We may see more hybrid models where some services will remain with the vendor and other services taken to a vendor-neutral data centre.
Connectivity options and content demands within Africa and between Africa and the rest of the world are growing. Network and content providers are reaping the benefits of colocating within neutral data centres which offer access to exchanges where traffic can be exchanged easily and for free. Teraco is hosting NAPAfrica which is a neutral, layer 2 Internet eXchange Point (IXP), located within each of its data centre facilities in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. Instead of costly multiple direct links to different providers, a single peering point allows multiple networks and ISPs to interconnect using an exchange environment.

Once connected to NAPAfrica, network service providers (NSPs) negotiate individual and multilateral peering relationships. NAPAfrica is open to any company with an autonomous system number (ASN). Because of its regional focus, the natural partners are those networks having a point of presence (PoP) in Africa, however, there are no restrictions regarding NSPs located elsewhere.

According to van Wyk, having NAPAfrica situated in their data centre has changed many peoples’ minds about vendor neutral data centres, adding that NAPAfrica has taken off unbelievably well, with July 2016’s throughput topping 100 Gbps. The company’s closest rival in Africa is the Johannesburg Internet eXchange (JINX) which handles around 8 Gbps. Read more about JINX here.

International content has also been brought to NAPAfrica which has enhanced the browsing experience of websites such as Google, Netflix and many others. A YouTube movie can now be viewed without the irritating buffering experienced in the past. Content is received as it is delivered so it is always up-to-date.

About the future? Teraco’s new data centre of 5000 m2 will open in December 2016 and they are planning a future expansion of a further 10 000 m2 facility over the next three years. By then the company will have a total of 19 000 m2 of vendor-neutral data centre space in Johannesburg, and almost 22 000 m2 in South Africa.

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