Microsoft right not to rush the launch of SA data centres: IDC - TechCentral

Microsoft right not to rush the launch of SA data centres: IDC

Jon Tullett

Microsoft is right not to rush the launch of two Azure data centres in South Africa, because if problems crop up it could tarnish the company’s reputation among local customers.

That’s the view of Jon Tullett, research manager for IT services at International Data Corp in South Africa.

TechCentral reported on 7 January that Microsoft had missed a self-imposed deadline of December 2018 to launch the two cloud data centres in South Africa, one in Johannesburg and the other in Cape Town. The software and services giant has now promised they will be launched this year.

It had originally said it would launch the facilities during 2018. TechCentral was not immediately able to establish the reasons for the delay, though there is market talk that Microsoft cancelled plans to launch in late 2018 due to the inability of a third-party supplier to deliver to specification (an issue now apparently resolved).

Tullett said one of Microsoft’s main concerns when launching a new Azure region is customer experience.

“It’s acutely aware that if the performance of the local operation is sub-par, or if the right mix of platform components is not available — and this is a very common complaint across Amazon Web Services and Azure customers, by the way — or any part of the stack experiences significant outages, then it could tarnish Azure’s reputation among local customers at a time when it is particularly sensitive to be seen as rock-steady and competitive.”

He said it’s clearly enough of a concern for Microsoft that the company is “willing to eat into its slim time-to-local-market advantage over Amazon in order to ensure the local stack meets expectations”.

“And while the ultimate cloud promise is to be as simple as just wheeling some pre-configured racks into a colocation facility, it’s actually quite a complicated process and things can and do go wrong.”

Tullett said all cloud operators have exhaustive testing processes for new infrastructure builds. “They won’t go live until the right lights go green. Since every region has a different mix of technology and conditions, it’s never as simple as following a recipe.”

Ashleigh Fenwick, a spokeswoman for Microsoft South Africa, told TechCentral earlier this month that work is progressing on the data centres. However, she said the company couldn’t share a detailed update on the progress or exactly when the services would be launched commercially.

“We’re focused on building the right solutions for our customers and are working towards availability of our new enterprise-grade cloud data centres in South Africa in 2019,” Fenwick said.

Since Microsoft announced its plans to launch the data centres in South Africa back in 2017, its biggest global cloud computing rival, Amazon Web Services, has announced it plans to open data centres in South Africa, with the first to go live next year in Cape Town.

The new AWS “infrastructure region” will be launched in the first half of 2020 and will allow customers to run workloads in South Africa and serve end users across the African continent with lower latency, Amazon said in a statement in October 2018.

In November 2018, Chinese technology giant Huawei also revealed plans to create a cloud region in South Africa. It will use the South African facility to provide cloud services to countries in Southern Africa and said it also plans to unveil more new regions in Africa in time.  — (c) 2019 NewsCentral Media

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