Vanguard, January 21, 2015, by Laju Iren

The term ‘data centre’ is not a popular one in the technology vocabulary of the average Nigerian. But for every bank account being maintained, every surveillance video captured, and every piece of data that large organisations need to store securely, the use of data centres is not only ubiquitous but an indispensable part of any IT industry.

In this interview with Hi-Tech, Mr. Tunde Coker, the Managing Director of Rack Centre, Nigeria’s Premiere tier III data centre, opens up on emerging opportunities in and benefits of the data centre business. Excerpts: Even though it is no walk in the park, some organizations still prefer to build their own data centres instead of using independent companies such as Rack centre, what are your thoughts on this?

To build a data centre to the standard of tier three requirements when the business needs it, requires billions of dollars of capital investment that sits as non earning assets on the balance sheet.

Investors will keep looking at such huge investments on the balance sheets and asking about it. In actual fact, the centre is important to the business but it’s not your core area of business. It’s our core business. It’s a totally different thing in terms of capital investment for us.

Companies could move that money into the front end of the business that makes returns. It takes weeks to get into our data centre and start operating efficiently as a business. It takes about 18-24 months to build your own data centre. That is business downtime where you are not operating at the level you are supposed to be operating at.

When I was a Chief Information Officer, CIO, at one of the banks, I didn’t have a choice, so I had to build a data centre. I found it as a distraction building it when we needed the time and money to focus on the business. Another distraction is running a data centre and worrying about diesel quality, security and skill sets instead of spending time transforming the business. I ask such people why on earth they would want to build a data centre.

You have to make sure that the investment in IT is not just a cost but an investment. CIOs that do that are very successful. Those CIOs are usually the ones that question the need to build their own data centre. It is a lot of the enlightened CIOs that don’t want to build a data centre.

What makes Rack centre unique?

We were the first in Nigeria to get a tier three gold certification of sustainability from the Uptime Institute. To get that certification, you have to be concurrently maintainable such that if you took a component out at different levels of the data centre, you can service them, and not bring the data centre down. So that the services continue. To achieve that, there are sets and sets of design criteria that have to be met. The Uptime institute comes in looks at the systems and structures and make sure that the centre meets the minimum requirements for standard concurrent maintenance across board. Our maximum level of downtime here in eight minutes, but we haven’t had a second of downtime since we begun. We have top notch security here.

Your assets are secure here at Rack centre. Those are skill sets you don’t really need to build because we focus on providing the best. We’ve faced some challenges but the systems and processes that we put in place ensure that we don’t have downtime. In terms of Power Usage Efficiency, PUE, ours is the lowest in Nigeria and West Africa. Here, energy is very highly optimized that’s why we are able to achieve such low PUEs. This ensures that we attain maximum efficiency and practice what I’d call green environmentally friendly IT.

How do you handle risk management?

We have enterprise risk management resources in place. It is an ingrained management process. We make sure that we cover all areas as much as we can. Companies also have to have their own disaster recovery plans in a different location elsewhere. We will work with companies to make sure they put that in place. We also have multiple network providers; we are carrier neutral. So that our customers have a choice of very high quality network providers. We are an extension of our customers’ IT. The people here have a skill set in ISO 27001 1S0 20000, as well as tons of other certifications. If a company comes in, we are an extension of them, and they can be accredited to those standards.