Category Archives: Teraco

How to start a business

Figure out what service you are currently buying from somebody where.. something pisses you off and you figure you can do it better, a niche, something you are passionate about, a new focus (value layer abstraction), a new category, where you can be a leader, maybe a bit geeky.. but ready for general adoption, something that allows you to take a bit of risk (ahead of the cure).

I’ve kinda done the above 3 times already.

It helps if people tell you it can’t be done. Good motivation.

Another way to read this: Your customers are your future competition.

Moving Hosting Back to SA

In the last weeks I’ve talked to a few people who were looking at moving their hosting back to South Africa. Their traffic costs in the US are usually about 20 times cheaper than in SA.

I watched this Summit TV interview with Tim today.

Around 4:56 in, the question comes up about moving hosting back to SA. Now, the major reason you would want to do this is to better serve your customers in SA and maybe some patriotic angle about keeping SA money in SA.

I don’t agree that international traffic costs are the main issue. We want cheaper local and inter-metro connectivity. This is where Telkom is still killing us.

Connectivity between Joburg and Cape Town is more expensive than Cape Town to London. Neotel have not done much about it.. in fact they are more expensive than Telkom at the moment (Neolink 4Mbps JHB – CPT @ R72875 pm). Infraco could help.. assuming they only get an ECNS licence (and not ECS). MTN, Neotel and DFA seem to be digging their own national fibre and should complete this before the end of the year.. let’s hope they don’t price it at 5% less than Telkom.

If we can get local connectivity costs right.. make it at least 20 times cheaper, I think it would make sense for more people to host in SA.

Teraco Launch Function

Last night Teraco hosted a launch event for its first data centre at Great Westerford for about 200 people. About 100 people went for a data centre tour and about 50 travelled all the way from Joburg for the event. A very nice turnout.

Good cocktails and nice snacks. Interesting to see the media and PR people getting a bit tipsy together (-:

gw

 

It was really cool seeing everybody that’s been involved in the project over the last two years. Big smiles and optimism all around.. like proud parents. An exciting ride from a simple (big) idea to a well structured business in operation.

Plans for Teraco’s Joburg data centre were on display. Looking good. It’s going to be a three story “green” building. Should be open towards the end of 2009.

I recited a little sales pitch a few times, so I figured I’d write it down.

As I was leaving I thanked the events planning contractor. She commented that Teraco looked like a really promising business and asked if it has any competition. As I drove home I again realised what an awesome running start Teraco really has.

Teraco does not have competition, it’s first to market, by the time the Joburg site is live Teraco should be well established as the leading vendor neutral data centre brand and I don’t see anybody raising R100mil to be number two in this economic climate.

Naturally, I woke up with a smile today.. makes we want to do it again.

The 80/20 Teraco Sales Pitch

Why Teraco? Well, in short..

Let’s say you are hosting in a (non-vendor-neutral) data centre. About 20% of your spending goes towards hosting – 80% goes towards connectivity.

Now, spend the same 20% with Teraco and see how you get more value for the other 80%.

Easily compare pricing from a number of connectivity providers.. or chose 2+ providers.

Simple.

In the end I figure people will end up spending similar amounts of money but get more value and we’ll see a trend towards dual upstream links, less single points of failure and better interconnectivity.. which is good for the local internet industry as a whole.

ps. I need to credit Tim, this is mostly his logic.

Teraco Update

I went for a tour of Teraco‘s Cape Town data centre today. It’s looking really good. Should be fully completed early next week. They were busy with some finishing touches today, like mounting the plasma screens in the reception area.. which is freshly painted with the new corporate colours..

Teraco

The DC looks awesome when you switch all the lights off and just have the ambient blue light from the floor vents lighting the room.

Exciting stuff. We have some fairly aggressive sales targets, but lots of interest. Everybody seems to love the vendor neutrality angle. It’s going to be fun filling it up!

We can start taking people for tours in February. Let me know if you want to go check it out.

ps. Sorry, could not take any photos today.

Quick Update

Weekly bullet-news..

  • Monday, gym, uber-juice, ISPA PR working group, Lions Head walk, Glen Beach sunset, “red olives” at the Daily Deli, bumped into Janine, watched Hancock again.. it was better the 2nd time.
  • Tuesday, FICA admin (what a waste of time), spinning, Suicide gorge and Lions Head full moon walk (12 Dec) planning.
  • Wednesday, gym, swim, lunch at Manna with Cath, watched Taken.. really cool movie.. I can relate.. also nice S8 driving scene, sushi in Obs with Georg and girls from Holland.. after a few drinks they understood Afrikaans and we understood Dutch, they insisted on going to a Kareoke bar.. that was a strange experience, bumped into Nicola at Bang Bang.
  • Thursday, Gardeners Cottage in Newlands with the boys from Westcon and Extreme Networks. Took the Extreme guys to see the Hub project switch.. a bit nerdy maybe. Teraco DC1 visit, 80%+.. should be finished in the next 10 days. Official tours should start in Jan. Lions head walk and a drive around Camps Bay. Braai at home with very nice lamb steaks and gourmet braai-broodjies (red onion and mozerella). Watched Hitman.. more Audi product placement.
  • Song of the week: Silver Springs, Fleetwood Mac, kinda like a revenge love song.. nice idea:

    Time cast a spell on you… you won’t forget me…
    I know I could’ve loved you but you would not let me….
    I’ll follow you down ’til the sound of my voice will haunt you..
    You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you..

  • Friday, braai-broodjies.. breakfast of champions.. hmm, can’t find a Wikipedia entry for those I’ll have to go add it :-P, early car service, Mia time, visited the Audi showroom in the Waterfront, Mia climbed around in the new TTs, bumped into Chris (another Audi fan), Clifton 4 sundown picnic with Georg and Lindy.. Wavescape surf movie.
  • I asked Mia if she remembers what’s on the front of my Amobia cap.. she said: “radio”.. how’s that for brand association (-:
  • Saturday, gym, swim, Beta Beach with Andy.
  • Sunday, Mia was up at 5AM!.. first night she asked to sleep without a nappy (with success).. because “I’m a big girl”, watched Treasure Planet again, uber-juice, gym, swim, drive to Somerset West, very nice lunch at Fishmonger in Stellenbosch, visit to Fairview wine farm (Paarl), it was a hot day: 39deg, awesome nap, La Med (briefly), jacSharp at Karma in Camps Bay.
  • I’ve been invited to the jacSharp “press and media launch” of their debut album this week. Cool.. now all I need is a date (-;

Have a fun week..
I’m off to walk up Lions Head again.

Quick Update

This weeks’ update seems to have been delayed.. I blame the awesome weather.

  • Monday, gym, swim, ISPA mancom meeting, watched Perfume.. good movie.
  • Tuesday, gym, swim, uber-juice, Tamboerskloof steps run, beer and pizza at Carlisles in Vredehoek.
  • Wednesday, Lions Head walk with Andy, WAPA admin and PR, eStrategy workshop in Bishopscourt.. which turned out to be a royal waste of time.
  • Thursday, walk above our house up to Military Road, ISPA general meeting, Teraco CPT site visit.. DC1 is starting to look good, January GeekDinner planning at Yum, SA UX meeting at Asoka, drinks at Asoka. Met Tristan from MyVideo.
  • Brandon told me I seem to be a very proud parent, I guess that’s true.
  • We named Andy’s two new kittens: Walker and RT.. from Talladega Nights, “Ricky Bobby: Dear Lord Baby Jesus, I want to thank you for this wonderful meal, my two beautiful sons, Walker and Texas Ranger” (-;
  • Friday, updated my homepage (front page and history), cocktails on the Camps Bay strip, added my first Wikipedia article about Vendor Neutral Data Centres, braai at home, watched Crank.
  • Fri 21 Nov.. Celebrations! The VANS won. “Many pioneering independent networks are already operating and the high court ruling will allow them to attract investment and expand their networks.”
  • Saturday, Mia time, gym, swim, kids party at our place, sundowner drinks and pizza with Cath, Parri and Jess.
  • Sunday, early Clifton 2nd session with Georg and Mia, braai, afternoon nap, Camps Bay.. Primi, Baraza, Karma, Baraza.. to watch jacSharp and Pierre-Estienne play.

I’ve been invited to the U.S. Bloggers Tour dinner this week. Makes me think people actually read the rants I publish here.

Have a fun week.

Vendor Neutrality

Background

A while ago I had to keep explaining the ideas behind “Vendor Neutral Data Centres” over and over, mostly when talking about peering. I believe vendor neutral DC’s are a good environment for hosting peering points.

To me the logic and benefits were pretty obvious, but I kept bumping into those stubborn types (change resistance factor) who just don’t want to listen to the voice of reason and kept on asking for an exact definition of vendor neutrality.

Some people you just can’t reach.

They claimed that “vendor neutral” could mean any number of things to different people. I did not find much on Wikipedia and a few examples of UK/US data centre with vendor neutral business models did not seem to make an impact.

So, I figured I’d make a few notes and write it all down.. maybe I’ll add it to Wikipedia.

What is a Vendor Neutral Data Centre?

Before we start, I guess I have to say I am a founder and shareholder of South Africa’s first vendor neutral data centre business: Teraco… but I’m not involved in the day-to-day running of the business. I should also add that a big part of my motivation for starting Teraco comes from an experience involving a local peering point project failing because of the anti-competitive interconnect policies of a single-vendor data centre… but that’s old news, circa 2002. More about this later.

Let me give you my attempt at a summary…

Vendor Neutrality in the data centre market refers to a specialised and focused business model, where a provider limits its activities to a fixed set of value layers in order to avoid conflicts of interest. The provider creates an open market and a platform for others to add value. The provider remains neutral and independent and offers standard open interconnect policies. This results in greater flexibility and wider choice for clients.

There are a few similar sounding terms like.. Telco Agnostic and Network Independent. These mostly refer to network infrastructure and IP transit services. I think “vendor neutral” goes a bit further and refers to a business model which is independent of all parties which add value further up the chain… these could be: service providers, consultants, DR solution providers, storage providers etc.

This brings us to the concept of “value layer abstraction”. Vendor neutral data centres focus on the bottom value layers in the stack of services customers in data centres need: space, security, power, environment (aircon) and cabling.

If you want to think about this in a (OSI) networking stack model: They stick to Layer 1.

Vendor neutral data centre’s have proven to be a successful business model in Europe and the US. Examples would be: Telecity and Equinix.

In some ways it’s more of a property leasing business than an ICT business.

An easy way to test if a data centre is vendor neutral is to see if the sales person you deal with will sell you data centre space and IP transit services.

South African Context

It has long been the norm in SA that a business or ISP has one upstream provider.. a single point of failure. This is not really how the internet was designed to work. The internet is about democratization, decentralization and dense interconnectivity. You could say internet is built on a vision of anarchy.. order without leaders and central control.

In SA (until January 2009) you were pretty much forced to buy your IP transit (internet access) from the same guys who provide you with data centre services. This comes from an era where last mile costs were very expensive and it made sense to be close to your one ISP.

With a bit of luck, the SA telecoms landscape will change radically over the next 3 years and network operators will see the value in the vendor neutral data centre model. We’ll see businesses and ISPs connect to two or more upstream providers in a more flexible hosting environment and we’ll see good growth in peering traffic.

Benefits and Attributes of Vendor Neutral Data Centres

  • Focused on the data centre infrastructure business, specialised and efficient
  • Create a platform for others to add value, an open market
  • No conflicts of interest, focus, not competing with customers
  • Truly independent and unbiased
  • Greater flexibility and no “lock-in” effect
  • Less exposure to single provider instabilities
  • Dense interconnection with no restrictions on connections between customers
  • Consistent pricing structure for interconnect medium
  • Greater competition between providers, avoids anti-competitive behaviour
  • Lower costs, better value
  • Best-of-breed choices, buy voice from the leader in voice services, buy IP transit from the operator(s) that offers you the best solution
  • Good environment for peering points

Let me know if you can think of more benefits or attributes I should add..

Quick Update

The weekly dose of me, me me…

  • Monday, dropped Mia off at school, tea with her mom, since I always drive by the place and wonder what’s inside I stopped and visited Lady Chatterley’s Chamber on Kloofnek ..most interesting, burger with Georg and Christo at Da Vinci’s.. try the Milan burger, watched Saints and Soldiers and The OC.. end of season one, finally.
  • 300th crackbook friend, 300th blog post
  • Figured I need a detox week, this lasted 4 days.
  • Tuesday, Long Street Baths swim with Andy, CLUG talk at UCT, CLUG dinner at Adesso.. to arrange Nov GeekDinner logistics, watched some James Randi youtube about spoon bending.
  • Wednesday, Cape Town’s finest taxi service, installed new x350 Extreme switch for The Hub project (new website due soon), Teraco CPT site visit, brunch at Cocoa Wah Wah in Rondebosch, 1km swim, bumped into Lyle at the pool, Amobia Exco meeting at Da Vinci’s (again), jacSharp Electro at FTV.
  • Thursday, gym, WAPA committee meeting at my place, drinks at the Radisson for The Training Room Online launch, full moon Lion’s Head walk… on my own. I think I need to write a (nasty) blog post about people that say they are going to show up but don’t.
  • Friday, killer abs class, made an uber-healthy-juice with my new juicer, emergency party gift shopping at Tinka Tonka Toys in Gardens, they were very helpful, chaired the WAPA AGM at Eikendal and I was elected to the WAPA management committee again. Mia and I attended Belle’s 6th birthday party.. island girl theme. Had home made burger’s at Will’s house.. some Springfield Wild Yeast Chardonnay (must be my fav wine at the moment) and authentic Mexican Mezcal with a worm in the bottle, Mia passed out on the couch and we slept over.
  • Do you ever get the feeling (fear) that you could be missing out on a revolution.. a cool hobby with an interesting evolving history?.. one of those windows in time that people look back on and say.. those were the days. New oceans to navigate.
  • Some days I wonder if maybe I’m just trying to progress (regress?) to a student lifestyle.. maybe I just miss the mountain biking and the crayfish diving.
  • Saturday, Will smoothies, gym, swim.. Mia now goes under the water and doggy paddles, had to drag her away from the pool, Clifton 4th with Mia and Will, perfect night for a braai at our place, this time Will ended up sleeping over.
  • Sunday, early’ish Clifton 2nd session, watched The Big Lebouski again, jacSharp at Karma – Camps Bay.. try Tanqueray and cranberry juice.

Idea of the week: Don’t try too hard, often it will come to you.. just need to find the right channel.

Have a fun week.

Quick Update

Ola, summer is here.. what an awesome week.. now is the winter of our discontent..

  • Monday, Caprice in Camps Bay, pizza and drinks on the deck at home with friends, bit of a rowdy evening.
  • Tuesday, Lion’s Head walk, car wash (first time in about 4 months), cable car run, wholesome veggie dinner, watched Fight Club.
  • There is something about that Moby Bourne Identity song that just makes we want to go running.
  • Wednesday, swim at the Long Street baths with Andy.. the place sure has character, Teraco Cape Town site visit, chaired the ISPA INX working group meeting, off to Stellenbosch to chair an Amobia meeting, burger at Cognito.
  • Thursday, gym, swim, took a day off.. bit of a metrosexual day, haircut and manicure at Mooi, scalp massage while listening to Abba.. *grin*, (sorry B), they have cupcakes and wine, then tea at Mango-OMC, took the ladies a box of Cassis Pastisserie creations, an Am I Collective visit, a quick Neotel meeting, facial at Elements, run in the foresty areas at the foot of Signal Hill, wholesome veggie dinner, Asoka, Extreme Hotel.. which could be a nice bar if you could get some service there.
  • Try Malibu and Peartizer. Try a few drops of Tabasco and Malibu in a shot glass.
  • Friday, gym, power plate (seems to tone facial muscles more than anything else, hehe), 1km swim, took a walk down to Daily Deli to have brunch with somebody really cool, test drove a GTI DSG, then an A4 cab, Mia time, had some fun with a voting system (for a good cause), popped on to IRC for the first time in about 3 years, a friend had a DUI incident so Georg had to go bail him out the next day.
  • Saturday, gym, swim with Mia, Sinn’s ice cream, braai with friends on the deck at home, took Mia to the Spring Tide (jail bait) festival on Camps Bay beach wearing her new rocker chick t-shirt. Watched JacSharp play. Cocktails with Jules, Nicola and Ben at Caprice. Mia says she wants to be rock star.
  • Sunday, Tamboerskloof park swings visit, braai at home, had a bit of a moment when Mia climbed up a cupboard and swallowed a whole Barocca Calmag, she later threw up on her mom, Rafiki’s to plan our housewarming, it’s going to be a big one, watched Seven again.
  • Somebody asked me on Friday if I’m changing or if I’m returning to my natural state.. interesting question, “I changed by not changing at all” — Pearl Jam, vs.

Idea of the week..

The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many Dos and Don’ts. First of all you’re using some one else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”

The making of a great compilation tape is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. Anyway… I’ve started to make a tape… in my head…
— High Fidelity

Have a fun week rock stars.

iWeek 2008

Once a year the South African ISP industry gathers at iWeek for 3 days. We listen to presentations, exchange ideas, network and socialise. The event is organised by the ISPA.

Have a look at the program and listen to the podcasts.

I attended the first iWeek in back in 2002, 06, 07 and 08. It’s well worth it.. and it’s free.

iWeek confirms the un-conference “paradox” that free is better.. community driven and democratised events are of more value than expensive and restricted conferencing events.

It was a busy few days. The food was good.. too good, snacks, lunches, dinners every night. I met a number of interesting people.

This year the top three sponsors where all from Cape Town. Amobia and Teraco (new branding) were Gold sponsors. WAPA endorsed the event. Amobia and WAPA had stands in the exhibition area.

I was invited to a panel discussion on the Wireless day as the WAPA chair. I think the wireless session went well.. we had good feedback.

I was elected to the ISPA management committee at the AGM.

Thanks to Elaine, Debbie and Cheryl (WhereNext Event Management) for organising the event. Thanks to Uniforum and the ISPA for the two dinners.

ps. I figure I should just get an Apple laptop again.. it’s a much better road warrior tool than the Ubuntu/HP. Seems the E71 was the toy to have.. bumped into at least 5 very happy new E71 owners at iWeek.