Connecting Africa

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Wingu.africa is East Africa’s first carrier and cloud neutral data center group with award-winning operating expertise and experience, offering a single point of contact and world-class facilities and services in key markets. The firm is uniquely positioned in East Africa, enabling global and regional customers to get direct access to all transoceanic and regional cable systems as well as interconnection to the group’s rapidly expanding network of carrier and cloud neutral data center facilities.
The company is built on the principles of carrier-neutrality, providing a platform that nurtures an open environment to give businesses the best options for connectivity and services, with excellent infrastructure and a connected eco-system, for the benefit of all clients.
As the firm nears commissioning of its first phase Data Centre in Addis in April, Capital’s Metasebia Teshome reached out to its CEO, Anthony Voscarides, for in depth insights of the company’s project. Anthony has over 25 years of international telecommunications experience working in Australia, Greece, Cyprus, UK, the Middle East and Africa. Excerpts;

Capital: What is a data center?
Anthony Voscarides: A data center is a facility that provides shared access to applications and data using a complex network, compute, and storage infrastructure. Industry standards exist to assist in designing, constructing, and maintaining data center facilities and infrastructures to ensure the data is both secure and highly available.
Data centers vary in size, from a small server room all the way up to groups of geographically distributed buildings, but they all share one thing in common: they are a critical business asset where companies often invest in and deploy the latest advancements in data center networking, compute and storage technologies.
The modern data center has evolved from a facility containing an on-premises infrastructure to one that connects on-premises systems with cloud infrastructures where networks, applications and workloads are virtualized in multiple private and public clouds.

Capital: What benefits could having datacenter locally gives to the country?
Anthony Voscarides: For many businesses today having a local data center just makes sense. It provides the infrastructure and security of a dedicated data center and companies enjoy the benefits of having their servers in the cloud while still maintaining physical control of their systems.
Today’s hardware needs certain cooling, conditioned power, backup generators, sophisticated security systems and the like, and each of these systems has its backup in case of failure. Thus having a local facility means, one can keep an eye on redundancies.
Moreover, the world keeps on integrating with technology. For instance, if Microsoft was to set up its firm here, it needs a suitable tech environment to do so and having local data centers bolsters that.
To give a good comparison, New York has more than 200 large scale data centers, whereas the total centers in Africa do not even reach this mark. Thus since more needs to be done on this front, having a local data center is a necessity, in order to have fast access to information.

Capital: Tell us about the whole facility of your data center, on what status is the construction? What makes your facility different from others?
Anthony Voscarides: Our data center is in Addis Ababa ICT Park, seated on a 15,000 square meters of land, and it allows us to deliver solutions to businesses requiring fortified server hosting for their critical services and operators.
It is a tier 3 facility which is designed to host up to 800 racks on competition of all phases with a maximum power requirement of up to 10 MW. The power delivery is via two separate sub stations and two physically separated feeds ensuring maximum availability. In the case of multiple utility failures, there are dual UPS and dual generators which will power the site without interruption until power is restored.
Data connectivity to the site will be supplied by in country ISP, Websprix and ethio telecom using multiple fiber paths. This ensures reliable customer access to the Ethiopian national and metro networks.
With regards to our current status, we are soon commissioning our center by the 20th of April this year, meaning everything will be tested and connected to go live to our first customers.
What makes us different is our commitment to Ethiopia, which is to provide a safe, secure and stable platform for the many talented Ethiopians, including young entrepreneurs with vision and ambition. To this end, the various government authorities have been very helpful to overcome challenges that we have faced. We are now on a good track to deliver the promised services.

Capital: How much did you invest in the project? Does your firm have plans on increasing investment within the country?
Anthony Voscarides: Our initial investment for the first two phases of the centers was about 26 million dollars. We plan on having four phases which means we will be increasing our investments in the country.
Currently, phase one in nearing commissioning on April whilst the second phase is to go live by the end of 2022. Moreover, we are planning on having at least one more facility outside Addis Ababa.

Capital: What benefits could your data center give to our country?
Anthony Voscarides: We have a lot of people locally that work with us through innovation. Our innovation center will be able to attract young talent to come and use servers that we have available for them to use for free as part of the programme to creating innovations here.
Ethiopia is a country that has existed from time immemorial, with a very special and unique ancient language. The country is comprised of a young population with a pool of talent and we seek to empower these talents by creating a data center that will nudge their dreams and aspirations.
The spectacular growth of the data center industry represents far more than just an industry success story: the reality behind it, and its explosion, represents a profound change in the way that we are living our lives and the way in which our societies are ordered. When looking at connectivity, the notion of speed of access is crucial, as opposed to the number of people connected. Thus we want to present a high speed of access to Ethiopians, which will mold faster innovations and better performances in doing work.
Moreover, our company is centered on helping the community. We look forward to helping the community where chances arise as well encourage the use of innovations.

Capital: Who are your targeted customers?
Anthony Voscarides: Any customer that requires connected access is our customer of choice. Currently, we have signed with five firms who are big on data access.

Capital: How are you going to work with telecommunication operators?
Anthony Voscarides: Each and every telecommunication operator is connected to a data center. We have been in talks with Ethio-telecom to use our centers and we will see how that progresses.
The benefits of having more than one data center is that if one fails the other one takes over, which in our industry is called redundancy.

Capital: How do you see the current development of the IT sector in Ethiopia?
Anthony Voscarides: Ethiopia has an amazing potential and energy with her innovative, youthful populations who have the enthusiasm to learn. Thus I see an exponential growth and the sector continues to expand and transform.

Capital: What makes your company different from other datacenter providing companies?
Anthony Voscarides: We provided services as a carrier neutral data centre, which operates neutrally as a public service. This means that nobody will take advantage of you, since everybody on the facility is treated equally. There is no form of favoritism.
We also bring our expertise from our success projects such as the Djibouti Data Center (DDC) which is the first and only Tier 3 carrier neutral data center ecosystem in east Africa with direct access to all major international and regional fiber optic cable systems connecting Europe, the Middle East, and Asia markets with East Africa. The DDC also operates the Djibouti Internet Exchange (DjIX), a neutral and independent Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Africa. Both the DDC and DjIX are catalysts in East Africa that enable new applications and services that help to drive economic development and social well-being in the region. Thus we want to reflect the same in Ethiopia.
We also adhere to all security protocols as per the requirements of the government, in order to protect the crucial data of the country. In addition to that, we also provide physical security, such as cameras and biometrics so that nobody enters the facility un-identified.