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Data centre plays vital role in driving Africa’s digital transformation— Johannisson

Data centre plays vital role in driving Africa’s digital transformation— Johannisson

Since its launch in 2013, Rack Centre has established itself as a leader in the West African region, boasting a 100 percent uptime record while driving innovation and revolutionising the way businesses operate in the digital space. As Rack Centre marks a decade of operations, BusinessDay engaged Lars Johannisson, the chief executive officer, who spoke on how the company plays in shaping Africa’s digital future.

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 It’s been a decade of operational excellence with 100 percent uptime since the launch of Rack Centre in 2013; what are some of the key milestones and achievements you are most proud of since the commencement of operations in Nigeria?

Ans: Rack Centre, since its inception in 2013, has achieved great milestones that the team should be proud of. These include the unwavering commitment to operational excellence, resulting in 100 percent uptime over the past decade. This is a testament to process and quality excellence. We have also gradually, based on performance, expanded our infrastructure, enhanced our service offerings, and solidified our position as West Africa’s leading data centre operator. The successful partnerships, being the hosts of IXPN and AF-CIX, represent continuous community innovation and dedication to customer satisfaction. These are all key achievements that have contributed to our growth and success.

How has the African data centre industry evolved over the past decade, and how have Rack Centre’s services contributed to the development and evolution of Nigeria and Africa’s internet ecosystem?

Ans: From being an early adopter 10 years ago, I dare to say that the team has successfully led a transformation from where this was a niche market to become an integral offering and part of any digitalization conversation and agenda in Nigeria. This has led our industry and its ecosystem to collectively grow, both in terms of offering and quality, which is positive for all of us. I would categorise Rack Centre and its team as catalysts in the Nigerian digitalization journey.

The African data centre industry has experienced significant growth and evolution. As a pioneer in the region, Rack Centre has played a crucial role in shaping this evolution by providing world-class data centre services that meet the evolving needs of Nigeria and West Africa’s internet ecosystem. Our robust infrastructure, reliable connectivity, and strategic location have facilitated the development of digital infrastructure and supported the growth of businesses and economies across the West African region.

How will you describe the data centre ecosystem in Africa in terms of service and development of the continent’s internet ecosystem?

Ans: Data centres play an integral role in digitising a society, and their importance will only grow as people and the industry incorporate more data into their day-to-day lives to enhance productivity. It is not possible right now to visualise an inclusive digital economy where data location, resilience, and ownership of our data are not connected to a data centre presence in Nigeria and elsewhere.

The data centre ecosystem in Africa plays a vital role in driving digital transformation, fostering innovation, and enabling economic development. Two examples are IXPN and AF-CIX, which are both present at Rack Centre. Rack Centre’s services contribute to this ecosystem by providing critical infrastructure that supports the delivery of digital services, enhances connectivity, and promotes digital inclusion.

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Where do you see the future of data centres in Africa in another ten years?

Ans: Looking ahead, we anticipate significant growth, both in Nigeria and the African data centre sector, over the next decade. This growth will enable the overall data and cloud explosion in the region, but at the same time, we need to have a dedicated focus on energy efficiency and sustainability. As the drivers of our industry explode, we need to ensure that we contribute with the best and most innovative energy solutions available.

Rack Centre is well-positioned to lead this evolution, leveraging its expertise, infrastructure, and partnerships to drive innovation.

There’s been so much talk around your new facility (LGS2). Beyond its size, how is it impacting West Africa’s internet ecosystem?

Ans: The LGS2 Data Centre represents our vision of “Build for today, ready for tomorrow.” Together with investors, partners, and staff, we don’t only leverage our legacy, but we go beyond the current need and prepare for a reality that will be even more interesting. We foresee that AI and high-capacity computing will not only be “offered to the market” but demanded by the Nigerian industry and government as growth enablers.

Beyond its 12 MW IT load, our new facility in Oregun, Ikeja, represents a significant advancement in data centre technology and power efficiency. The latter is relevant as the new facility drives our sustainability agenda, being the only IFC Edge-certified facility for its green building design in the EMEA region.

The Nigerian data centre market has grown rapidly; what’s that unique selling point that differentiates Rack Centre from the rest?

Ans: Rack Centre’s unique selling point lies in our unwavering commitment to excellence, 100 percent uptime, reliability, and customer satisfaction. This can sound like an obvious statement, but to deliver them over ten years is a differentiator that our clients acknowledge. We offer authentic carrier and cloud-neutral services, ensuring our customers have access to a diverse range of connectivity options and service providers. Also, our strategic geographical location with the lowest risk of flooding, robust digital ecosystem with over 65 network service providers, world-class infrastructure, and customer-centric approach set us apart in the market and make us the preferred choice for businesses seeking reliable data centre solutions in Nigeria and beyond.

With the campaign around climate change, different sectors are embracing sustainability measures; can you share with us the position of Rack Centre on this?

Ans: Rack Centre is fully committed to sustainability and environmental stewardship. We recognise the importance of green design principles in minimising our environmental impact and promoting a sustainable future. To this end, we have implemented various initiatives to reduce energy consumption, optimise resource utilisation, and minimise our carbon footprint. Our upcoming LGS2 facility, for example, will incorporate energy-efficient design features and utilise renewable energy sources to reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to a greener planet, and this in turn has earned our facility the IFC edge certification in Green Building, making the facility the only data centre with this certification in the EMEA region. The design principles and team behind our expansion put Nigeria at the forefront of data centre efficiency.

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Let’s bring back the issue of operational excellence with 100 percent uptime. How has Rack Centre been able to sustain this, and what strategy is behind it considering your location on the Lagos Mainland?

Ans: First, this is a recognition of the staff of Rack Centre and their dedication. Sustaining operational excellence and achieving 100 percent uptime is also a testament to Rack Centre’s rigorous maintenance protocols, robust infrastructure, and ESG principles. Leveraging the most secure location in Lagos, we have implemented redundant connectivity solutions, backup power systems, and rigorous security measures to ensure uninterrupted service delivery. Our proactive approach to maintenance, continuous monitoring, and investment in resilient infrastructure have been key strategies for maintaining uptime and ensuring customer satisfaction.

What are some of the emerging technologies that Rack Centre is investing in to stay ahead of the curve?

Ans: Our new facility and its design integrate the most advanced cooling and energy-efficient solutions available. We have considered that the next year’s expansion will see advancements in cloud computing, artificial intelligence, edge computing, and cybersecurity. All these will demand high-capacity computing and energy requirements. At Rack Centre, we are ready, and by embracing these technologies, we enhance the capabilities of our data centres, improve service delivery, and provide innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of our customers.

In another ten years, technological innovations would have been recorded in the data centre sector; how does Rack Centre prepare for such?

Ans: I think our vision and design respond to that: “Build for today, ready for tomorrow.” Rack Centre’s expansion is well-prepared to embed technological innovations in the data centre sector over the next decade. Our flexible infrastructure, team, agile approach to development, and commitment to innovation position us as a leader in the industry, capable of adapting to technological advancements and driving positive change.

What are Rack Centre’s expansion plans for the African market, and what new markets are the company considering?

Ans: Rack Centre recognises the immense potential of the African market and is strategically positioned to capitalise on emerging opportunities across the continent. Our expansion plans are guided by a comprehensive strategy that focuses on geographical expansion, infrastructure development, and strategic partnerships to further solidify our position as the leading data centre operator in West Africa. Right now, our focus is to deliver our commitment in Nigeria to our clients and continue to develop the strong team that made this journey of excellence a reality.