It wasn’t even 10 years ago, cloud technology felt like a fringe technology that many businesses saw as unnecessary in the face of their own on-premises IT infrastructure. Today, the cloud is a booming industry where organizations continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible and provide new and improved solutions to critical problems—and the best part is that it’s available to everyone, no matter how big or small.
Year after year, we watch the cloud level the playing field, opening up access to resources and technologies that were previously reserved only for those who could afford to buy, own and manage them. With the proliferation of global cloud service providers such as Microsoft Azure, the utility of the cloud has become endless. However, many African businesses face cloud adoption challenges other than financial.
These can include technical issues such as latency and access to international bandwidth, as well as a wave of new regulations requiring sensitive data to be stored within country borders. This creates a gap between countries that have access to hyperscale public cloud providers in their country and those that do not.
So, let’s see how these problems can be overcome.
Local servers, lower latency – what’s the benefit?
The appeal of cloud technologies like Microsoft Azure is that they can become a technology equalizer between startups and large organizations. Resources can be accessed in real-time by the hour, making development and testing more efficient and reducing the need for large capital-intensive equipment costs.
The premise of the cloud is that everything you need is stored on a server, preferably in your work region. This is rarely the case in Africa as data centers are few and far between.
Take Azure for example. Microsoft has set up two main data centers that host local servers in South Africa. Four years ago, the entire continent was using servers in Western Europe. This meant that the whole of Africa was subject to high latency.
While this doesn’t do much harm, the pace of technological development requires much faster processing times when it comes to processing power. It has now become critical for many businesses and industries that rely on real-time applications for live streaming, banking, imaging, navigation, stock trading, weather forecasting, collaboration, research, ticketing, video streaming, online games, etc. This list continues to grow.
On-premise servers offer lower latency, but they can also help businesses comply with increasingly popular data privacy regulations in place in many African states – some stricter than others. In most cases there is an element of data sovereignty or a requirement to “keep data within bounds”. This creates unique challenges for organizations looking to adopt cloud technologies without having a hyperscale cloud provider like Azure in their home country.
A solution for local data needs
Azure Stack offers the perfect solution to this problem, bridging the gap and bringing resources closer to end users. Simply put, it provides the ability to move Azure Cloud resources to a server located in an organization’s offices or in an on-premises data center.
However, setting up and running your own server is out of the question, as this is exactly what most companies have tried to avoid in the first place. Fortunately, companies like Liquid Intelligent Technologies have teamed up with Microsoft Azure to create what are called Liquid Azure Regions.
In these regions, we have created a mini data center in collaboration with Microsoft to provide local businesses in certain regions with local hosting capabilities. This is where companies can store and use sensitive and private information that is meant to be stored in the country. We then integrate these servers with the wider Azure landscape to get all the benefits of a public cloud for data, unencumbered by national regulations.
Essentially, this extension of public Azure allows users to store and process data locally on the device while leveraging the scale capabilities and technologies that can only be delivered from the hyperscale cloud. So far, Liquid has established Liquid Azure regions in Kigali, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Harare. But this is only the beginning.
It’s only up from here
Africa accounts for less than 1% of the total global data center capacity. However, this capacity has doubled over the past three years. With more official data centers from the likes of Microsoft and more relevant local solutions like Liquid Azure regions, we are well on our way to fulfilling our mission to create a digital future that leaves Africans behind.
In line with this mission, Liquid has deployed shared Azure Stack environments in several countries. With four Liquid Azure regions and more in development across the continent, Africa is poised to reap the full benefits of cloud innovation with partners like Liquid and Microsoft driving the continent’s success.
The Liquid Cloud team offers a free demo. More info here – https://liquidcloud.africa/landing-azure-backup-v0/
The author, David Brooks, is a Senior Product Management, Liquid Cloud and Cyber Security Specialist
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