In a move that it says will drive digital transformation in South Africa, Microsoft yesterday announced that its new enterprise-grade data centres had gone live. They would form part of a multi-million-dollar investment to create economic opportunities for South Africa through an Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (EEIP).
At the opening of the data centres, Yousef Khalidi, corporate VP of Azure Networking at Microsoft, announced that Microsoft Azure is now available from Microsoft’s new cloud regions in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
“The combination of Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure with the new regions in Africa will increase economic opportunity for organisations in Africa, as well as connect businesses across the globe through improved access to cloud and internet services,” said Khalidi. “In addition, the availability of Microsoft’s cloud services delivered from Africa will mean local companies can securely and reliably move their businesses to the cloud while meeting compliance requirements.”
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, said bringing data centres onto South African soil would advance the fourth industrial revolution.
“Our people cannot be scared because we are talking about the fourth industrial revolution,” she said. “It is a necessary disruption. We will prepare South Africans by making sure we enhance our skills and equip our citizens with the tools to cope in this revolution.”
With this announcement, Microsoft has become the first global provider to deliver cloud services from data centres on the African continent. The company has announced 54 cloud regions worldwide, which is more than any other global provider. Amazon Web Services currently has 19 AWS Regions, as it calls them, with Cape Town set to become a new region early next year.
Azure is the first of Microsoft’s intelligent cloud services to be delivered from the new data centres in South Africa. Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity solution, is anticipated to be available by the third quarter of 2019, and Dynamics 365, the next generation of intelligent business applications, anticipated in the fourth quarter.
Newly appointed Microsoft South Africa managing director Lillian Barnard revealed that the Microsoft EEIP has evolved to include investment in technology solutions in agriculture and digital transformation in manufacturing – just two sectors where key government priorities and Microsoft focus areas overlap.
Microsoft’s EEIP is also funding skills development among South Africa’s young software developers, making them more employable.
“The evolved EEIP demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to digital transformation, skills development and experiential learning, as well as the enablement of innovation and technological advancement in South Africa,” said Barnard. “It economically benefits the country and demonstrates that we are investing in the right initiatives to ensure the inclusion, diversity and success in the digital economy.”
Barnard said both the evolved EEIP and the new Microsoft datacentres were indicative of how important South Africa was for Microsoft.
“We are already seeing great examples of how Microsoft’s investment in local innovation is having an impact on many of the partnerships we have with our customers in both the private and public sector. This will accelerate following today’s announcements.”