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Three data centre trends and their impact on South Africa’s digital economy

Recent reports have shown that data traffic in Africa has risen by 20% since the arrival of Covid-19.

As the world comes to terms with the new normal, there is an urgent need to manage, store and protect these escalating volumes of data.

Data centres rely on uninterrupted power to conduct “business as usual” even when utility power fails – not uncommon amid South Africa’s ongoing electricity woes. Today’s critical power systems are designed to provide continuity of power for a data centre, and this is no simple task. This means that data centres must be capable of efficiently reacting to change. On top of the surge in data traffic amid the global pandemic, recent forecasts confirm longer-term dramatic growth in data traffic – boosted by technologies like 5G, IoT and an ever-increasing number of wireless connections.

To adapt to the increasing complexities of the industry, data centres and providers are shifting their priorities to meet the unique needs of these facilities, which are facing numerous challenges from these growing, complex environments. Let’s take a closer look at three key trends that will affect the digital economy of the future:

Trend 1: With the pandemic accelerating digitisation, demand drivers remain strong.

Over the past 25 years, the commercial data centre sector has proved resilient amid economic recessions. Also, a wave of new investors have joined the very active market for data centres. Investments in data centres have risen as the South African market has seen the arrival of AWS, Microsoft, and Huawei over the last five years. Further, Gartner has suggested that South Africa will finish the year as the fourth fastest-growing major IT market in the world. With the African data centre market expected to grow at a CAGR of over 12% to 2025, data centre owners will continue to weigh innovative technology with the opportunity for cost savings and operational efficiency when partnering with technology and equipment providers.

Trend 2: The next wave of internet build out is underway – with much more at the edge.

Bandwidth, costs and latency are among the reasons why more edge capacity is needed. All data centres are working to drive down energy consumption to advance sustainability in their centres and decrease costs.

The demand for edge computing is being driven by new applications coming to the market that require low latency, and cloud and colocation data centre providers will likely lead the shift. However, don’t expect the edge to replace the cloud, rather they will complement one another.

Trend 3: Data centre energy use will continue to rise steadily in 2020, straining the grid in places.

Internet traffic growth in South Africa is expected to grow by an CAGR of 36% in from 2016 to 2021, with 31 Petabytes of internet traffic per day in 2021. Most data centres in the region are working to drive down energy consumption to advance sustainability in their centres and decrease costs.

To stay protected, increase operational efficiency and lower energy usage, data centres will continue to seek new and innovative ways to guarantee success for themselves and their customers. This in turn, is driving the demand for new technology solutions that provide more control, flexibility, reliability and added security to manage and protect massive amounts of data.

The pace of change in South Africa’s data centre industry will continue and is likely to accelerate in the future. This will be spurred by increasing demand for digital services, as well as the need to embrace new technologies and innovation while mitigating future disruption.

Keeping an eye on emerging trends and forces of change and disruption is imperative for South African organisations to future-proof existing data centres against disruption and capitalise on innovation.