Punch, February 9, 2015, by OZIOMA UBABUKOH

The Managing Director of Rack Centre, an indigenous data centre infrastructure company, Mr. Ayotunde Coker, spoke to OZIOMA UBABUKOH about the impact data centres would have on the country

Considering the infrastructural challenge in Nigeria, are there opportunities for the growth of data centres?

The opportunities are huge and we can see other data centre operators springing up in the country. Again, there is an opportunity for expansion in the length and breadth of the business and I can see that already happening.

What are the challenges of running a data centre in Nigeria?

The challenges are huge, just like the opportunities. The data centres have to run generators with diesel for 24 hours in seven days without the use of electricity from the national grid. The managers of data centres have decided to do it that way because they want to avoid a situation where operations will be put to a halt because of power failure, which will create a lot of cost on our part. Maintenance is also challenging, as data centres have to spend so much in maintaining the entire system and putting backup in place. Monitoring the facilities is also challenging and data centres have skilled workers that are on standby for monitoring. All these are challenges of maintaining data centres in Nigeria.

Is it true that Nigeria cannot have an efficient Tier 111 data centre because of the single grid system that the country operates?

It is absolutely possible for Nigeria to have a Tier 111 data centre, because Rack Centre is already Tier 111 certified. You may be referring to Tier IV data centre, which requires additional routes of grid supply, outside a single national grid system that Nigeria currently has. But all over the world, we have very few Tier IV data centres, because the cost of delivering Tier IV is extremely high and most global data centre operators settle for Tier 111 data centre because the service demand for Tier IV data centre is on the low side.

What are the benefits of a Tier 111 data centre to organisations and the economy as a whole?

The Tier 111 data centre comes with several benefits for the customers. It gives customers full assurance of the safety of their data, security wise, and this is essential to any business, be it small or big. Data centre investment is huge and looks like a non-earning assets on the balance sheet of any organisation. Therefore, what data centre operators like done is to carry that burden off the shoulders of organisations, since it is not their core business in the first place to operate a data centre, giving them enough time to focus on their core business. So, it saves organisations huge sums of money that could be invested in their core operations to boost returns on investment. It also saves organisations the challenge of having downtime in their business. Again, building data centres by organisations amounts to serious distractions on the part of the organisation. My experience, as a Chief Information Officer in one of the banks some years ago, tells it all, where I had to be worried about maintaining the data centre of the bank. It also saves physical space for organisations.

With a Tier 111 data centre, what sectors of the Nigerian economy can it target?

Rack Centre is targeting all sectors of the Nigerian economy that manages data, because we have the service offerings for all of them, be it financial services, oil and gas, power, telecommunications, governments, among others. Significant amount of government operations require data management and we have all it takes to manage government data. Currently, we are servicing most of the blue-chip companies from our data centre, as well as top insurance and payment companies, including banks and telecommunications companies.

What kind of security support are you giving to customers that will enable them to build up their trust in your service offerings?

We have differing layers of security in our business offerings, which can be grouped under 10 levels of security. With Rack Centre, customers’ assets are secure because we have built different layers of security that will always protect customers’ data in our centre. In terms of reliability, Rack Centre service offerings have been proved to be highly reliable. For instance, we have a Tier 111 certification from the Uptime Institute, which certified us as qualified Tier 111 data centre with the appropriate facilities to offer data services to customers. We offer the best design in downtime, our design criteria downtime is eight minutes maximum per month, and we have not experienced one second of downtime since we commenced data centre operation in Nigeria, and this is the reason we had always retained our customers and received new customers periodically.

Data centre management comes with huge risk, what measures are being put in place to safeguard clients’ investment?

Risk management is key to us. There are enterprise risk management processes in place that are reviewed frequently. We plan for even the unexpected because we want to ensure safety of customers’ data always. Apart from having disaster recovery plans, data centres also advise organisations to have their own disaster recovery measures in a different location outside the premises of their organisations. This will help should anything disastrous occur within their premises; their data will always be saved and could be easily recovered for business continuity.

We are multiple network providers, which enables our customers to have choice of high quality network services. The other thing we do is that we run extension of our customers’ Information Technology, because we have different certification standards, which make us unique in data centre operation with diversified service offerings.

What can you say about the future of data centre in Nigeria?

The future of data centre in Nigeria is very bright and that is why we are offering services with the latest technology. Our build-up time is modular and this allows us to fine-tune the modules that we build into the environment where we operate. We do not build separate data centres for specific industry because doing so is not an efficient way of deploying technology. What is needed in data centre is flexible technology that allows us to deliver services that different sectors need. This is because each sector does not need a different technology solution to handle its data. Although each sector differs a little from one another, but the key thing is having a flexible solution that addresses all these needs and that is the kind of solution we offer to our clients.

What is your projection for business growth in data centre operations in the next five years?

We see ourselves developing technology parks in Nigeria in the next five to 10 years that will be comparable to global technology parks. We also want to see the data centres driving the Nigerian economy through data technology.