Microsoft has officially announced that they are building Azure datacentres in Cape Town and Johannesburg, which will come online in 2018. Those datacentres will deliver Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 services to local customers.
Julia White, Corporate Vice President for Cloud Platforms at Microsoft South Africa, made the official announcement today in a conference call to local tech journalists and other interested parties.
“For the first time, the Microsoft Cloud will be delivered directly from Africa. We are building new datacentres in both Johannesburg and Cape Town to deliver Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure Cloud services to the South African market, from within the country,” White said.
While many South African businesses have made use of Microsoft’s cloud-based Azure services for years, they have been connecting to datacentres in Ireland and other European locations to do so. That has meant longer latencies, which has in turn impacted on the performance from those services.
Generally speaking, a typical round trip from here to Europe takes anything from 200ms to 250ms, whereas connecting to local server – especially with a low-latency fibre connection that prioritises business traffic – drops that round trip time into single-digit-territory.
The time is right
Thus, the presence of local Azure servers should have a big impact on the apps and services that depend on it, something locals have been asking for, for years.
“We’ve always said when the business case is right, we will put in the investment. And the business case is now right”, Zoaib Hoosen, Microsoft South Africa’s Managing Director told us in an interview just prior to the official announcement.
Hoosen didn’t provide insight into the specific latencies they expect to see, but he did emphasise that “Lower latency is definitely a benefit” when we asked.
The presence of Azure datacentres in South Africa has further benefits for the entire sub-Saharan region, Hoosen told us, as companies in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and other countries in the lower half of Africa will also be able to connect to it and enjoy the lower latency on offer.
Just how much lower, though, is yet to be determined. We asked, but all Microsoft would say is “We won’t put a stake in the ground about the actual latency performance until the datacentre is up and running. But we will say that lowered latency is definitely a benefit.”
During the call, White didn’t mention who Microsoft is partnering with on the actual datacentre hardware, but she did say that these will be “Microsoft datacentres”, meaning they will be built to Microsoft’s exact specifications.
She also didn’t say when in 2018 operations would commence, but if we look at the company’s track record, there’s typically a 12-month window between announcements and general availability, so we expect much the same this time around.
In terms of the pricing of the services on offer, Microsoft indicated it has been discussed, but not finalised.
Still, the mere presence of Azure servers inside South Africa’s borders bodes well for everyone who uses Microsoft’s cloud services.