Cape Big Data Facility: The Next Big Thing In Cape Tech

Cape Town has been claiming to be the tech hub of Africa. People in the know have always known this to be just a marketing gimmick. Now, Cape Town is set to become the real technology hub in the continent. Here’s why: Cape Town is planning to build probably the most important data centre the continent has ever seen – the Cape Big Data Facility.

 

Big Data is a fast-growing global industry with growth forecasted at 26.4% CAGR to $41.5 billion by 2018 according to the Industrial Development Corporation. Big Data is the analysis of high-volume data to uncover valuable insights and create value for business and governments, pertinent to Smart City initiatives and business’ innovation strategies. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) investment in Southern Africa has provided the ultimate Big Data challenge and creating opportunities to develop the industry, the high computational and analytical skills required, and establish data centre infrastructure. Recently Thought Leaders Breakfast hosted by Accelerate Cape Town hosted an event where industry leaders unpacked the opportunities to build Big Data skills and data centres in Cape Town and data-driven innovation strategies.

 

Stephen Green, who serves as Dimension Data’s MEA Executive for their Data Centre Business Unit spoke about the  global growth of data centres. Stephan stated that the digital explosion has generated considerable amounts of data i.e. in 2012, more data has been created more  than the previous 5000 years. For this data to become valuable, it needs to be stored and analysed and thus data centres have become a huge opportunity. Stephan estimated that with 300 million companies in the USA, that there are 3 million data centres and collectively, data centres would be the size of Spain.

With the average data centre having 50,000 – 100,000 servers, Microsoft uses approximately 1.2 – 1.3 million servers, and Amazon Web Services have 40 – 80 million servers globally. One of the main issues about data centres is the power utilisation, but also the property costs, the cooling required and the security of the data. With technology evolving so quickly, data centres are out of date in 7 years according to Gartner, so companies need to change their mind set and also think of utilising the elasticity of a hybrid cloud solution with legacy environments.

 

The session was also addressed by Raven Naaidoo, a senior consultant at Radian Consulting and advisor to both the City of Cape Town and Western Cape Government on telecommunications and broadband strategies.

Raven shared details about the SKA investment in South Africa and Cape Town which will create an unprecedented amount of data. The phased project plans to have 190 Satellite dishes operational by 2022 (Phase 1) and 1000 by 2040. Data from Phase 1 will be processed in a Tier 0 science data processing facility (international community usage).  A national data processing facility for storage and analysis (Tier 1) will be collocated with the Tier 0 facility. A local Tier 2 facility will be set up as a regional collaboration between local academic and research institutions.

South Africa is already capturing and analysing astronomy data from the MeerKAT telescope through the Centre for High Performance Computing.

Raven said that the new high performance computer in the Tier 0 science data processor will be in the global top 20 by processing power – as rated by the Top500 super computer organisation. What is also remarkable is that South African students have won the Student Cluster Competition for the 2013 and 2014  International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis and came 2nd in 2015. As a result, Dell has made a commitment of R120 million to the  Centre for High Performance Computing in South Africa over 10 years. The Western Cape Government also sees the value in this sector and is investing in data-driven innovation strategies i.e. infrastructure, policies and skills, to develop the market further.

Now,  the Western Cape Department of Economic Development & Tourism (DEDAT) requests information pursuant to the establishment of a regional big data/high-performance computing facility, known as the Cape Big Data Facility which is capable of playing a critical role in the future economy of the province. This is a joint project in collaboration with a number of public sector project partners such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and University of Cape Town (UCT) amongst others.

This Request for Information and Expression of Interest (RFI/EoI) is for the building, operating or hosting of a Big Data – High-Performance Computing facility in the broader Cape Town area of the Western Cape, South Africa. The facility will serve as a host for the Square Kilometre Array computing and data store requirements, as well as for other high-performance computing and traditional data centre requirements.

The RFI/EoI is for owners, operators, facility managers and developers of data centre facilities. The RFI/EoI may also be of interest to technology providers, especially those involved in large data centres and high-performance computing. This RFI is issued as part of a process of testing the roles and models with potential private sector partners, and to assess and refine the next steps and way forward in establishing the required facility.

The information gathered through this RFI process will be used to shape a tender/bid/RFP which will be issued later in the year for the implementation of a Cape Big Data Facility. Any information provided will be treated as confidential, and only for the use of the project partners.

A non-compulsory briefing session will be held on Wednesday, 18th May 2016 @ 14:00 – 15:30, 1st-floor boardroom, Waldorf Building, 80 St George’s Mall, Cape Town. The RFI documents, detailing the information requirements are available at the following email address: Nashreen.moosa@westerncape.gov.za.

All queries must be directed to Olivia Dyers at olivia.dyers@westerncape.gov.za. We will endeavour to respond within 48 working hours. Closing date for RFI submissions: 15 June 2016 at 15:00.

 

Resources:

Sources: Western Cape Provincial Government, Accelerate Cape Town