Raxio Uganda general manager James Byaruhanga during an interview. PHOTO/ STEPHEN OTAGE


How data centres will anchor digital revolution

What you need to know:

With increasing uptake of technology, new economic sectors are emerging such as the data centre industry. 

In an interview, the general manager of Raxio Uganda, Mr James Byaruhanga explains to Prosper Magazine’s Ismail Musa Ladu, how a certified carrier-neutral data centre can anchor the growth and development of sectors of the economy.   

The data centre is a fairly new industry in the country. Of what relevance is it to the economy? 
There might be some truth to the effect that this could be something new here. But if you look at it from a global perspective, you will realise that this is something or if you like an industry that has been immensely growing. That said, we are primarily built to catalyse the private sector. 

You should know that ICT is one of the sectors that the government is looking at to drive the economy to another level. There is an effort right now to integrate the economy between the public and private sector. For example, the digital transformation happening at URA with the rolling out of Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solution (EFRIS), is an interesting development. This, therefore, means there will be need for data centres. So our existence in Uganda is not just about catalysing the internet or the private sector transformation but also driving the public-private sector integration.

Not many people seem to grasp what you do although important. Can you be trusted?
All the internet service providers in the country have a presence at our facility, and that I believe is resolute indication in terms of confidence in our ability and expertise. We have started seeing microfinance institutions, research institutions, and education institutions taking up spaces in our facilities.

The primary service that they are interested in is colocation, meaning a service where you can have your equipment kept in our facility for disaster recovery, secured by us, with our facilities. We don’t force you to use our cloud platforms, but rather we allow different providers to deploy in the facility especially the Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs).

Some of the racks at the data centre. PHOTO/ STEPHEN OTAGE

Speaking about Small and Medium Size Enterprises (MSME), who make up about 90 per cent of the economy, what is in it for them?   
Well, we are mindful of that because our economy is largely run by SMEs. That’s why colocation is of utmost importance. By colocation, I mean any large data centre facility that rents out rack space to third parties for their servers or other network equipment. This suits SMEs or businesses that may not have the resources needed to maintain their own data centre, but still want to enjoy all the benefits.  When compared to building your own facility, the costs of a colocation data are much lower. 
Reliability is remarkable. You can choose the location of your data centre so that it is near your users. Expenses are predictable and it comes with easy scalability. 

Then, you can accrue from cross-connect. Every IT system you build without connection could be useless unless it connects to someone else’s. So for the economic sectors to thrive, there is need to connect with someone you want to connect with and this is something that is within our expertise. 
SMEs, initially would buy cloud services from outside sources like Google and Microsoft, we are trying hard to see whether we can bring these platforms into the country. So the idea for us is to continuously grow and not compete with connectivity providers, given that there are several of them already. We want to give the customer the right to utilise the eco-system. 

Let us talk about the security of the data. As you know this is something that is at the heart of the industry players…  
I would be surprised if economic sector players don’t mind about security aspects, especially now that we live in a world of cybersecurity threats. So, we allow you to you to bring your own equipment, and it is your responsibility to manage your data – we have nothing to do with it.

However, we have our own physical security all around. But allow the customer to have their own logical security data or the actual security for the data itself. This is important in as far as having the owner of the data taking charge.

They can stay within control of their data in our premises. There are also options. You can be in charge of your data in your living room or server room or data centre. So you choose, but there is a cost that comes with in-house solution versus a data centre solution which we believe is actually more affordable because the cost of running it in-house is quite significant.

How would you rate the level of cyber security in the country?  
 Every time there is growth, there is an equally strong counter to growth, and it is no different in IT growth and development. 
The more you digitise, you must also remember that there is a threat in form of cyber security. I think the industry has moved forward on the transformation front, but not on security.
It may prove pointless to deploy, for example, a solution for every bank or institution because this will be very costly. I think it makes sense, especially at this point in time for us to find someone that can be tasked to hedge against cyber security because it is cheaper for everyone. And that is what we are trying to champion.

The plant control room at Raxio Uganda. When compared to building your own facility, the costs of a colocation data are much lower. PHOTO/ STEPHEN OTAGE

In the business of data
The volume of data that organisations are seeking to manage is exploding with the evolution of traditional enterprise systems and the introduction of mobile phone apps, Internet of Things sensors and other innovations. This growth is only going to accelerate as further advances become mainstream, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, and new social media platforms.