Two data centres are to be opened in South Africa by Microsoft, as the software giant looks to bring increased cloud computing and Office 365 availability to businesses in the country and continent.
The company confirmed on May 18 that it intends to set up data centres in South Africa’s largest city Johannesburg and its legislative capital Cape Town, and it hopes that this will enable it to offer Microsoft services more readily in the area.
The executive VP of cloud and enterprise for Microsoft, Scott Guthrie, has recognised a surge in demand for cloud solutions in Africa – something that has made the company “excited” and keen to become involved in.
Microsoft uses its data centres to offer on-demand services to customers, and although they are based in various locations around the world, they operate collaboratively as a single mega-facility.
Despite internet and computing services growing in Africa, companies there remain without their own Microsoft data centres at present. They are reliant on its centres in Ireland and other European locations, thus creating logistical and legal obstacles for both Microsoft and African businesses. This is particularly the case for cloud computing, which can be slow and unreliable as a result of it being delivered from another continent.
Moving these hubs closer to African customers should speed up deliveries, make cloud services more efficient and allow more data to be stored locally in compliance with laws.
Products and services to be sold at these new data centres, aside from Office 365 and its related apps, include its Azure services focused on cloud computing, and its CRM application product line Dynamics 365.
Microsoft put together a serious drive to introduce Office 365 to more African countries between 2013 and 2014, during which it expanded the platform’s availability in the continent from three countries to eighteen. South Africa was the first to receive it in 2011, then availability was spread out to neighbouring countries like Botswana and Namibia, and then on to the sub-Saharan area.
The new announcement is the latest in a number of developments showing tech companies making inroads in Africa, with social media giant Facebook recently installing hundreds of miles of fibre optic cable in Uganda.
All this is in keeping with the fact that of the 15 countries that enjoyed the biggest rise in the number of internet users from 2015 to 2016, 12 are in Africa. Mali’s growth of 18.6% was second only to India, while Lesotho – a tiny nation entirely landlocked by South Africa – saw its number of internet users grow by 18.1%. In South Africa itself, more than half the population (52%) had access to a working internet connection as of the end of 2016 – up 3.9% from 2015.
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