London — The Covid-19 year has delayed capital projects across Africa so it's good to see Raxio's delayed Tier III carrier-neutral data centre in Uganda now set to launch at the beginning of May. Russell Southwood spoke to Robert Mullins, CEO Raxio Data Centre.
When I last spoke to Mullins in August 2019 (https://www.balancingact-africa.com/news/telecoms-en/45806/raxio-on-course-to-launch-new-tier-iii-carrier-neutral-data-centre-in-uganda-its-investor-first-brick-holdings-wants-to-launch-four-more-by-2021 ), it was before the Covid-19 pandemic and he had wanted to open its carrier neutral data centre in Uganda on 1 January 2020. But Covid-19 came along and made things much more complicated and the launch date is now set for 1 May. The last pieces of equipment are being commissioned and there will be a month of 'snagging' and testing.
Its approach has been to see the roll-out of its operation in three phases. With pre-marketing, it has pretty much filled the envisaged capacity in phase one (giving it 0.5 MW and 125-130 racks) and will move to phase two by the end of the year. In terms of customers:"The categories are pretty much what we expected, including financial services, ISPs, MNOs and international carriers. The Ugandan IXP will also be hosted and also there will be a content provider with a presence." In addition, there will be four resellers "to address lower capacity customers."
In mid-March 2021, it held an event in Addis Ababa to break ground on its data centre project in Ethiopia:"It's been a long time coming. It's taken time to get the exact plot we wanted, especially during the Covid-19 year." It now has the design work done and a local architect on board for the build phase:"The approach will be faster (than Uganda) because there will be a lot of pre-fabricated modules and it will be a hybrid of 'bricks-and-mortar' and prefabricated, electrical modules. The data hall is a pre-fabricated structure."
Phase 1 will deliver 0.5 MW but there is significant future potential:"There is a significant appetite from those participating in the MNO licensing process. We are in touch with the top contenders and there is a discussion about in-house vs external and time to market issues. So we may start with 1-1.5 MW and we can easily tweak things because it's modular." It has also appointed a General Manager to run the operation.
It has been looking at DRC for about a year and "used lockdown to get us where we are. It's ripe for our approach. There has been a lot attention on DRC internationally and issues about the cables going down to the coast. There are a lot of things to fall into place and connectivity is one of the main pre-conditions."
Phase 1 will be 0.5 MW and as soon as it presses the go button to invest it will start its pre-marketing activities. It is engaged in discussions with the Kinshasa IXP and thinking about a second facility in somewhere like Lubumbashi to give it a separated back-up capability:"I see the need for multiple facilities in these markets. In the case of DRC, a Lubumbashi client might want a secondary facility in Kinshasa for back-up. In Uganda, many clients are coming to us for disaster recovery but also talking about what they do with their primary data centre. We need another facility to keep them separate."
The tide of the arguments within MNOs about running their own data centres seems to be running in Raxio's favour:"They're starting to question how much sense it makes to run all their own facilities. Vodacom has decided to go that way."
Also the whole pandemic year with working from home has driven demand for connectivity and lower latency services:"That's not going to go away and it was bound to happen anyway. Even from the Government side, it has bought digital transformation into much sharper focus with things like e-services." On this basis, Raxio will be rolling out 10-12 facilities across the region."
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