Tunde Coker the Managing Director at Rack Centre is an extraordinary innovative technologist. His skills at leading large, multi-national, multi-location teams to design, build, restructure, or manage complex technology operations have been well proven over the years. In this interview with Mobileworld, Tunde, who has garnered international experience across Europe, USA, Asia and Africa, with particularly strong recent exposure in Africa shares on integration of cloud services, certification and security at Rack Centre and many more. Excerpts…
What are your views on integration of cloud services into corporate IT?
People have been talking about cloud for a while and there have been some examples of cloud that have been for a while. People have been using cloud for many reasons like their personal mails and sites for sharing pictures like Instagram, although that has some social connotations to it, so that sort of explains what cloud is.
In the corporate world, cloud has progressively become real now; an example is that corporate companies can actually have its own branded email with shared services that provides all of the collaboration that you need without having to build your own IT so you can consume as you go.
Basically, cloud provides services of different shapes and forms for people to consume as they go without building their own infrastructure. If you go back 20-30 years ago, corporate companies actually build their networks by big main frame and so on; though corporate still build their network, however increasingly they are now going into shed, pay as you go infrastructure both for the services they consume applications like email collaboration, document, management and so on. Cloud service gives you cost effectiveness because you don’t have to spend much, capital efficiency because you don’t have to buy a whole computer and find out that you don’t use 30% of it. You buy what you need, so you pay as you go, you pay as you consume and it allows you to give resources back when you no longer need them. So it actually brings computing power to a much more broader path of the whole world which is actually transformative because it brings capabilities to SMEs and other companies that do not have the capital to spen
d on BIT, so now people don’t build their own networks, they go to people like MTN, GLO, ETISALAT and so on for them to provide the network communication service.
The term cloud is an all encompassing term that is used to describe a whole range of computing resources that can be made available on the use as you pay, pay as you go basis in a capital efficient way.
What is unique about Rack Centre? Could you give an insight into your level of certification?
Rack Centre is unique in many ways, we provide preeminent services for collocation in West Africa, we use very sophisticated technology to do that and people are able to host their IT systems with us in a very good environment. We are modular, so we can scale as we grow, our customers know that if they scale, they are able to expand with Rack Centre.
Rack Centre is the most connected data center in Africa, if not it’s pretty much close to it. As a truly carrier neutral, it means companies that come to host in Rack Centre immediately have a whole range of service providers, they don’t have to go and negotiate to provide their own connectivity and that is particularly useful to everybody because it allows choice, it allows you to build resilience, it actually brings about making sure that you are more likely than not to be in an environment where someone can provide the kind of connectivity you want.
We also have connections to the undersea cables through the partners we have connected here; there are five main undersea cables in Africa around the South Atlantic coast of Africa. if your are connected to Rack Centre and being connected to those cables it means you can service any country on the South Atlantic coast of Africa and with that location therefore you have the most resilient connectivity round through to Europe as well. Where Rack Centre is located is good for Nigeria, we actually house the latency to Europe which gives us an opportunity to provide service to other parts of Africa and Europe multinational companies.
We are unique in many ways. Our people, our leadership team has a comprehensive mix of international experience and Nigerian experience. Our people here are highly engaged and committed to what we are doing and we build a world class team here. We sent our technical team to the UK and the feedback we get is that they are as good as anybody else that they have worked with in the world, our people make us unique. The other thing that is unique in Rack Centre is our professionalism, and also our parentage. We belong to Jagal and that is one of the respected conglomerates in the country. Jagal has world class professionalism running through its DNA and that’s great because it allows us therefore to be world class and professional in what we do.
For certification, Rack Centre was the first company in West Africa to be certified tier 111, so we set the bar and having set the bar we have some of our competitors coming to achieve tier 111 design certification which is good for Nigeria because now we have four certified data users in Nigeria, we have MTN, Rack Centre, Main One and Galaxy in Abuja. We expect to be constructed facility certified and that will raise the bar again because that is the proof of improving.
We have also been delighted with some international recognition we have had, like the AIITA award, we won the Data Center Dynamics award for the impact we have in the industry, we collected that last December and we were the first Africa company ever to have won an award at Data Centre Dynamics and it was great. For us it wasn’t about Rack Centre, it was about Nigeria representing Africa.
We have also won several awards with the institute for Government Research Technology which is a very august body in technology and that was for excellence in storage covering collocation provision. We have been operating for the past three years now without one single second of down time.
The other thing I can add to our uniqueness is what we are doing with cloud; we are putting in place in Rack Centre the heart of cloud services in West Africa, the data is held here in Nigeria it’s not held anywhere else in the world. By the end of the year we should be able to establish fully and firmly established here in Rack Centre, the data will be held here, we call it Cloud on Ground because it is held here in the Rack Centre, we will transform the cloud capability in whole of west Africa.
Whose responsibility is it to make available skills and analytics talents in the IT landscape taking into consideration the direct impact on the market?
It is everybody’s responsibility, everyone one contributes to make sure that we have good, strong and underlined primary education, secondary education and university education; the underlined building blocks are put in place by the government. However parents increasingly have to make sure that they hold the schools to account for the quality expected, it is a whole systemic thing that you find when you go to Europe and US, people don’t just send children to public or private schools, you hold the system to account to give you good education. It is something we have to put in place here and collectively stand out for those fundamental building blocks of education.
What I realize is that you can’t always get the fully finished fresh product from the university, that is why you find us doing increasingly more with the students, we speak at university events, we support what others are doing about the caliber of graduates that come out of universities because we all play a part in finalizing or finishing off the quality of graduates that we have coming out.
At Rack Centre we believe in people development, the great people we have here didn’t come totally finished. We make sure that we train by not just sending people to courses, personal development is a continuous way of life here, we hold our appraisal system dear here, it’s a continuous development process. We build the caliber of people we require in Rack Centre.
In some instances we have some people who are almost finished products coming to work here, we have to bring them on board, something that we take seriously is our on boarding process and very quickly you get to realize that people do things to a world class level. When there is an expectation of excellence around you, you have to stand up and know that to be relevant and be impactful in your environment you need to do more. One thing we try to do is we try to invest in people by sending them on training; it’s a lot of cultural investment that we put in people. It is perfectly okay for people to feel that Rack Centre employees are good, this is because we do our best to provide an environment that is compelling for them to say but if they leave, it’s fine because they go out and raise the standards elsewhere, collectively in the environment you get raised standards.
We don’t judge ourselves to local standards, we always judge ourselves to what is seen as the very best at the world standard level.
What level of security could you say Rack Centre has?
Highly secured, we have ten levels of security here and you have experienced four levels. We have very stringent processes not only of getting people in but very stringent process in terms of people who have access in here, we have tracking and recording of access, we have ten levels of security right down to the front of the racks, the server of the racks.
We have CCTV footage on all angles of the facility and the environment around; we hold that footage for one year so that we can play back to a specific point in time to see what was happening where. There are much more detailed processes around the place that we closely monitor and check and double check data and information, we track all the activity that go round the facility.
From the physical security point of view, security is a core competency from us. If you were a company that wants to build a data centre and put in the level of security we have put in here, one you have to build the competency, two you have to invest in it. When people come to Rack Centre, they can vouch that the core competency is there.
What excites you about this job?
Interestingly you might think data centre and you might think IT, or what we are doing with cloud. Actually, it might interest you that this is one of those jobs that have brought into play almost all the breadth of skills that I have acquired over the thirty years of my post graduate experience.
Haven been a CIO in different forms over the last 20 years, helps me relate with what CIO requires. I have held vital CEO jobs over last the 15 years. We don’t only deal with the CIOs; we also deal with CFOs and CEOs.
I have to deal with shareholders that expect returns on investment, leadership; I have to create an industry. We need to define a vision for our industry that is well articulated, one has to be steadfast too and set out a vision that you also have to execute. It’s a whole range of activities and it’s very challenging but it’s also very enjoyable and exciting in its own way.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I play golf; I try to play as many courses I can when I get the chance to. I like good family time, both my immediate family and my extended family.
I take my religion seriously, so I am active in that as much as I can be.
Could you describe yourself in three words?
I think one is authenticity, being authentic about thing, about you, about people who work for me; work with me, knowing that what you see is what you know. I am a visionary and I am committed.