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Every country on Atlantic Coast of Africa Connects to Rack Centre

Tunde Coker, the MD/CEO of Rack Centre, the data hosting Tier III company, engaged our crew, and shared his thoughts on the business of connectivity in Nigeria and Africa. Excerpts.


When you mention Rack Centre, what comes to mind is a company that hosts data. Can you convince me that you actually have a constructed facility as a certified data centre and you offer carrier-neutral colocation services?

Rack Centre is indeed the only company in Africa that is certified by the Uptime Institute to Tier III as a constructed facility. I can assure you it is online. If you log on to the website of Uptime Institute they identify all of the companies in the world. Then if you narrow it down to Nigeria and by certified different categories.

In 2014, Rack Centre was the first company to actually achieve design certification by Uptime Institute and then we had metro progression to have a facility that actually constructed to be certified (ancestry). So that qualifies us and it is given online and as you can see also, the clerk that specific itself is a Tier III certification.

The analogy I will give to that is a hotel. I can make an assertion that I have a four-star hotel. If by designs and intent of the hotel, it is quite significant, the inspectors would have to inspect it and say this is now a hotel that has been constructed to a four-star status and recognized by a global body, not an opinion. So a tier is a constructed facility. It is an indestructible testament to the fact that we have constructed to Tier III. The term carrier-neutral used by organization has absolutely no affiliation with a (carrier ownership) or in parenthood.

So we are a data centre company that means we are carrier-neutral. Being carrier-neutral, it affords all carriers a home – a point of connection where they know that competition will not be against it 24/7/365. We have a great relationship with all of the major carriers in Nigeria because we are not a carrier. We have about 27 carriers connected to Rack Centre directly to what is called the linking road. That is where the carrier comes to the facility. They can come in through three private independent routes of our radio for increase resilient like (packet cart 1, packer cart 2 and another).

You have a choice of carriers to decide how you want to interconnect to the whole country.  So if a client comes in through Rack Centre, the client can interconnect to the entire carriers as you so wish and we also find out that we can actually significantly reduce the total cost of connectivity by (10%.) It works with a carrier because the carrier knows that there is a customer here that can have access to the services. That works with the customers because the customers know that they have all the carriers. So, it is a great symbiotic relationship.

That’s what carrier neutrality means and that is the level of interconnectivity that we have right now in Rack Centre and that is an accurate status and not a personal assertion. The other fact is that every single one of the five undersea cables that serve the Atlantic coast of Africa to different length round the coast are connected to Rack Centre. Some of them are actually undersea cables that are subscribed to by consortia of companies. Even an undersea cable connected to Rack Centre can have access route to multiple members of the consortia.

So you have significantly gained a number of accesses to the five undersea cables. And that goes to say that we are the most connected Tier III in Africa. This is not a baseless assertion; it is a fact that with all of those undersea cables connected to Rack Centre, we connect Africa. Every single country on the Atlantic coast of Africa is directly connected to Rack Centre by fibre and with the interconnectivity we have in Nigeria, it means we have a single point of significant connectivity here. We do believe that as a Tier III facility, we are indisputably the most connected in Africa. This is not an opinion.

Does that mean the Tier III constructed facilities are the highest that a data centre can hook up to?

Yes. The certification comes in two dimensions. One, in terms of the tier, we have the tier I, II, III and IV. The fact is that the Tier IV means a very high level of certification that is reserved for very, very, specialist services. The Tier III is the highest real commercial criterion, which is a one dimension. What determines the level of tiering is what we are designing uptime. So, Tier III is 99.9 to design uptime. However, our centre has updated with 100% uptime since October 2013. We achieved that in less than four and a half years.

The other dimension is the level of classification within each tier. It could be design certified that means your design document has been reviewed and they are in line with the Tier III requirements. It can be constructed facility, which is what we have as a Tier III. By the end of 2018, Rack Centre will be operating Gold Certification as a Tier III facility. Given the trajectory we’re at now, if we don’t have another neutral carrier facility certified Tier III, we should be the only one. So those are the three dimensions it takes to design the Tiers.

Why do we go for the tiering? It not just a matter we use literarily for politics or showcase, it validates us as a highly respected global body the quality of facility we have to always do what clients demand and we do what we do to global standard and high quality. The other piece here is that it gives our customers reassurance that a separate global body has certified this company to the highest level so that they can be rest assure that there is a critical business asset operating in the facility that is certified to a global standard independently.

That is why we went for it. I pray we continue to achieve that, as it keeps us on our toes. That means you have subscribed to a very high level of quality.

In the industry, every company claims to offer co-location, data centre, cloud services. With what we have in the country now, data storage has been an issue for a very long time and clients are beginning to patronize you. At this point, we must separate the wheat from the chaff. How can we do that?

Okay, I will use the hotel analogy again. If you log on to some hotels’ websites and you click on Nigeria, you will see a long list of hotels. Some are classified four-star and everybody could claim to be a hotel or whatever. But it is the customer that decides what quality. Imagine being in a hotel that doesn’t have a generator. Well, it’s a hotel. But would you lodge there? For some people they know that a three-star hotel will give you a certain level of comfort and if you go to their website you will find out they are a two-star or one star hotel.

A reputable website will not book your hotel as a three-star without showing evidence of a formal certificate, as such; you have been inspected as a three-star. It is the same thing here. We are indisputably certified to Tier III. It is independent foundation validity. What that also means is that all the highest quality provider of cloud services knows that the baseline for the production of cloud services is in high quality already. That is why we now have a comprehensive range of cloud services that are cloud exchange or we call it cloud on ground. It’s on ground, hosted in Nigeria.

However, because we are so highly connected, we connect Africa to the world. We can consume the services of cloud services that are delivered by all the best networks in the world to deliver to somebody that is hosting data with us in our cloud programme. Of course, it’s a journey. We are not where we want to be yet in the whole range of cloud services. We are continuing to cultivate the partnerships in the whole brims of area. The other thing is the content distribution. We have a data centre. We have a hosting for your customers at different level of scales. We have cloud services that are private cloud that you can provide for customers and public cloud as agenda consumed. We also have content distribution template. All of these are what we packaged.

What we have in Nigeria now is termed to be comprehensiveness, global scale. You don’t have to go looking for cloud services elsewhere. We recognized that cloud services are better delivered at the point of use because we don’t have the latency. So what we have done is to place ourselves in a position here in Nigeria as an anchor point for delivering cloud services to the economy here. It’s an achievement we are proud of. It’s some serious engineering of global standard that we have done to improve that footprint of services here in Africa. Nigeria is just an anchor point. It’s a significant anchor point but we can deliver the services all through Africa.

Aside this, we have other range of services. We call it zero downtime migration because we have established a deep and strong relationship with our customers at our data centre as hosting partners. We are able to provide professional services to help them think of how they can optimize their own hosting framework. Some of them own a standard facility. We help them figure out how to optimize that in their relationship with us.

We’ve talked about cloud on ground to increase services. We also have a host internet exchange point of Nigeria. As a carrier-neutral location, it is a natural location for inter-exchanging of data in the internet exchange point. The internet exchange point localizes internet data in the country. That means if you request and you are not in Rack Centre and pair to the internet exchange, your request will go to all over the world to be resolved.

It is like posting a letter and you have to go to London to find out where the address you are posting is located. Meanwhile, you are actually posting a letter to your next door neighbour. But if you are connected to the internet exchange point, it immediately alerts you that the address is next door and delivers the letter instantly. So that is another service we provide in partnership with internet exchange point of Nigeria.

Innovation is a way of life for us because the context we operate in continues to change constantly globally. We engage globally in all of the top leadership that is going on to understand what we need to put in place by cultivating strategic partnerships we need to put in place so we can deliver the global quality of services here in Rack Centre at the latest level of innovation that we have.

One of the things we so hold on to is that we are proudly Nigerian. We are truly African because we do connect all of the African countries and we do have global recognition. We have won quite a few global awards. The fact that they are global doesn’t mean that they a more uncompromising than the awards that we won in Nigeria, but it’s good that it informs of global recognition because we are just as proud of the awards we won in Nigeria as the ones we won in Africa and the one we won globally.







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