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US VC firm buys Teraco

Africa’s largest data centre has been acquired by Boston-based Berkshire Partners.

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Boston-based investment firm Berkshire Partners LLC has bought a majority share in Africa’s largest data centre, Teraco.

Formally known as Teraco Data Environments, it is Africa’s leading provider of colocation data centre infrastructure. The Permira funds, an existing shareholder, will remain a significant investor.

Based in Johannesburg and established in 2008, Teraco is the largest provider of data centre services in Africa. The company offers vendor-neutral colocation and other related services in secure and resilient data centres. The Permira funds initially backed a Teraco management buyout in December 2014 and in that time the business has multiplied its capacity more than six times. 

The company operates five high-quality facilities with 30MW of critical power load serving more than 450 clients, including global internet companies, across five core ecosystems – telecoms, managed service providers, content, enterprise and financial services. With more than 13,500 interconnects, Teraco’s data centres are the most interconnected facilities in Africa, allowing clients to connect directly to each other, to the onramps of all major cloud providers, as well as to the continent’s largest and fastest growing Internet Exchange Point, NAPAfrica. 

The data centre market in Africa is poised for continued strong growth with increasing demand for global applications, content, and the accelerating adoption of cloud services. Teraco has built a strategic position to capture this regional opportunity as a trusted and secure partner with resilient data centre facilities built to international standards.

Says Jan Hnizdo, Managing Director of Teraco, “Berkshire Partners is a like-minded and committed long-term partner that shares our vision for the future: to continue to invest in world-class data centre facilities, allowing us to support the digital interconnected enterprise, and meeting the high standards of service that are expected from us. Over the next few years, we aim to double our installed critical power load from 30MW to 60MW and we look forward to working closely with Berkshire Partners on this ambitious growth journey.”

Larry Hamelsky, a Managing Director at Berkshire Partners, said: “We believe that Teraco is exceptionally well-positioned to capitalise on the fast growth of the Sub-Saharan data centre infrastructure market given its highly interconnected ecosystems, well-designed facilities, and ability to offer a wide array of deployments. We are thrilled to be partnering with Teraco’s talented management team to support the company’s continued success.”

Michail Zekkos, Partner at Permira, added: “Continued secular demand driven by Sub-Saharan Africa’s digital transformation, the early stages of outsourcing, and cloud penetration means that the future looks very positive for Teraco, and we look forward to supporting the team.”

Lex Van Wyk, Chief Executive Officer of Teraco, said: “Berkshire Partners has prior experience investing in data centres and appreciates the business that we have built. We are delighted to welcome them as our new majority shareholder. In addition, with the Permira funds staying on as a shareholder, there remains continuity in the shareholder base. It is business as usual for the employees and management team of Teraco, and more importantly, for our clients.” 

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and the customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019.

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Huge appetite for foldable phones – when prices fall

Samsung, Huawei and Motorola have all shown their cards, but consumers are concerned about durability, size, and enhanced use cases, according to Strategy Analytics

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Foldable devices are a long-awaited disrupter in the smartphone market, exciting leading-edge early adopters keen for a bold new type of device. But the acceptance of foldable devices by mainstream segments will depend on the extent to which the current barriers to adoption are addressed.

Major brands have been throwing their foldable bets into the hat to see what the market wants from a foldable, namely how big the screens should be and how the devices should fold. Samsung and Huawei have both designed devices that unfold from smartphones to tablets, each with their own method of how the devices go about folding. Motorola has recently designed a smartphone that folds in half, and it resembles a flip phone.

Assessing consumer desire for foldable smartphones, a new report from the User Experience Strategies group at Strategy Analytics has found that the perceived value of the foldable form does not outweigh the added cost.

Key report findings include:

  • The idea of having a larger-displayed smartphone in a portable size is perceived as valuable to the vast majority of consumers in the UK and the US. But, willingness to pay extra for a foldable device does not align with the desire to purchase one. Manufacturers must understand that there will be low sell-through until costs come down.
  • But as the acceptance for traditional smartphone display sizes continues to increase, so does the imposed friction of trying to use them one-handed. Unless a foldable phone has a wider folded state, entering text when closed is too cumbersome, forcing users to utilize two hands to enter text, when in the opened state.
  • Use cases need to be adequately demonstrated for consumers to fully understand and appreciate the potential for a foldable phone, though their priorities seemed fixed on promoting ‘two devices in one’ equaling a better video viewing experience. Identification and promotion of meaningful new use cases will be vital to success.

Christopher Dodge, Associate Director, UXIP and report author said: “As multitasking will look to be a core selling point for foldable phones, it is imperative that the execution be simplified and intuitive. Our data suggests there are a lot of uncertainties that come with foldable phone ownership, stemming mainly from concerns with durability and size, in addition to concerns over enhanced use cases.

“But our data also shows that when the consumers are able to use a foldable phone in hand, there is a solid reduction of doubt and concern about the concept. This means that the in-store experience may more important than ever in driving awareness, capabilities, and potential use cases.”

Said Paul Brown, Director, UXIP: “The big question is whether the perceived value will outweigh the added cost; and the initial response from consumers is ‘no.’ The ability for foldable displays to resolve real consumer pain-points is, in our view critical to whether these devices will become a niche segment of the smartphone market or the dominant form-factor of the future. Until costs come down, these devices will not take off.”

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New exploit exposes credit cards on mobile phones

Check Point Security has found that handsets using Qualcomm chipsets that hold credit and debit card credentials are at risk of a new exploit.

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Now it’s more important than ever to update your phone.
Check Point security has found a vulnerability in mobile devices that run Android, which allows credit card details to be accessed by hackers.

Mobile operating systems like Android offer a Rich Execution Environment (REE), providing a hugely extensive and versatile runtime environment, which allows apps to run on the device. However, while bringing flexibility and capability, REE leaves devices vulnerable to a wide range of security threats. A Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is designed to reside alongside the REE and provide a safe area on the device to protect assets and to execute trusted code. Qualcomm makes use of a secure virtual processor, which is often referred to as the “secure world”, in comparison to the “non-secure world”, where REE resides. 

But Check Point “fuzzed” a “hole” into this secure world 

In a 4-month research project, Check Point researchers attempted and succeeded to reverse Qualcomm’s “Secure World” operating system. Check Point researchers leveraged a “fuzzing” technique to expose the hole. Fuzz testing (fuzzing) is a quality assurance technique used to discover coding errors and security loopholes in software, operating systems or networks. It involves inputting massive amounts of random data, called fuzz, to the test subject in an attempt to make it crash.

Check Point implemented a custom-made fuzzing tool, which tested trusted code on Samsung, LG, and Motorola devices. Through fuzzing, Check Point found 4 vulnerabilities in trusted code implemented by Samsung (including S10), 1 in Motorola, 1 in LG, but all code sourced by Qualcomm itself. To address the vulnerability, the runtime of Android needs to be protected from both attackers and users. This is typically achieved by moving the secure storage software to a hardware-supported TEE.

Check Point Research disclosed its findings directly to the companies and gave them time to patch vulnerabilities. Samsung patched three vulnerabilities and LG patched one. Motorola and Qualcomm responded, but have yet to provide a patch, and there is no confirmation of a release date yet.

Check Point Research has urged mobile phone users to stay vigilant and check their credit and debit card providers for any unusual activity. In the meantime, they are working with the vendors mentioned to issue patches.

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