Microsoft says it will be opening two cloud facilities in South Africa, potentially beating AWS and Google to offering a datacenter presence on the continent.
However, Microsoft won't be physically building its own datacenters, opting instead to colocate in existing data hubs to deliver Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 from sites in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Microsoft says it has 500,000 cloud users in Africa, and the first customers will be able to connect to local servers in 2018. The presence will make South Africa the 15th country with a local Azure service, and reflects strong competition for cloud services.
As well as potentially having cloud facilities in Africa before Google and Amazon, Microsoft should also be ahead of Apple and Facebook.
"This is fantastic news. Customers have long used reasons like latency and data sovereignty to not move to cloud," said Muggie van Staden, managing director at open-source provider Obsidian Systems.
"This would make those reasons go away. A key focus for all customers would be to start planning and testing now on what workloads they would deploy when it is available in country."
While cloud adoption in South Africa is developing, there has been some reluctance to use services that are physically based overseas because of an incoming data-protection law. While the new law won't mandate that personal information has to be kept within its native jurisdiction, some have been advising that it would be the safest way to guarantee compliance.
Jon Tullet, research manager for IT at IDC Africa, agrees. By moving ahead of its rivals Microsoft will have a competitive advantage for private and, critically, public-sector clients.
"Amazon is the 800lb gorilla in the room. They dominate the cloud space and at this stage almost anything that Microsoft or Google can do, Amazon either already has or can build quickly," Tullet said.
"Now, Microsoft can stand up and say they can deliver locally hosted resources that allow for in-country data governance, and Amazon can't. Microsoft has a strategic advantage which is significant, though possibly for a short window period."
Microsoft said the African datacenter announcement brings the number of cloud regions around the world to 40 and will open up its cloud services to more organizations across the entire continent.
Read more on Microsoft cloud and Azure
- Microsoft Build 2017: The lessons learned on Windows, Azure, Dynamics
- SAP now offering multicloud option with AWS, Azure, Google
- Microsoft debuts Azure Cosmos DB, a superset of its DocumentDB service
- Microsoft touts new hybrid-cloud tools; rolls out Azure AD B2B authentication service
- VMware's Horizon Cloud will support workloads on Microsoft Azure