Off the grid and into the cloud

13 April 2023

Andrew Cruise, managing director, Routed

Andrew Cruise, managing director, Routed

With over 200 days of load shedding in 2022, South African businesses had to put urgent contingency plans in place to protect themselves from the devastating effects of rolling power cuts. And, as this is likely to be the status quo for at least another two years, short-term solutions no longer suffice. As a result, cloud adoption has increased.

More and more businesses are opting to leave load shedding issues to the experts. For most businesses, facilities management and electrical security is not their day job and they’re realising that their time and resources would be better spent elsewhere. Data centre colocation providers are obliged to offer a guarantee of continuous power to their tenants and can address power cuts more efficiently than a smaller enterprise’s data centre or server room. Therefore, load shedding is a catalyst for businesses to move workloads into these larger data centres.

Some are opting for a lift-and-shift of owned equipment, while others choose to re-platform on-premise hardware onto cloud. Either way, cloud as an industry will benefit as workloads inside the data centre are closer to the cloud providers and therefore there will be less friction when moving to the cloud in the future.

But it’s certainly not been smooth sailing for the industry, as data centres, which host everything from exchange points to content delivery nodes and websites to cloud-based services, have had to spend millions to generate their own power. When a data centre’s power is cut, power is provided by several diesel generators, which usually have their own backups for redundancy purposes. A single four-and-a-half-hour load shedding stint can cost a data centre R100,000.

This, understandably, means that cloud costs are likely to increase. Users should in fact be wary of cheap services. Mature, specialist cloud operators will all use the most reliable data centres built to exacting standards and are at very low risk of problems during load shedding. Teraco data centres, for example, hold in excess of half a million litres of diesel at their major sites. But this of course adds to the cost of providing the service.

However, a minority of inexperienced, immature, or cheap cloud operators are focusing heavily on costs and are making poor choices when it comes to colocation facilities. These operators have had several cloud outages due to power problems recently, which unfortunately negatively affects the perception of all local cloud operators.

For savvy businesses, the benefits of data back-up and disaster recovery are eclipsing the potential for increased costs at more experienced cloud providers. If the costs of getting onto the cloud are a barrier to entry, consider the alternative: the losses your business will suffer without continuous access to workloads. When workloads are in the cloud, through reliable providers, you only need internet access to continue business as usual. Working smarter remotely using the latest available cloud technology is the best way to avoid the potentially crushing effects of load shedding.