Nyali can get really hot. Air conditioning is almost always on in most houses, but no building needs that blast of cool air more than Mombasa Two, or MBA2, a data centre built and operated by iColo.com.
Inside the building, cooling is mandatory for the thousands of servers stowed in racks. It consumes over half of all the energy the building uses.
iColo.io is a company that designs, builds and operates state-of-the-art carrier-neutral data centres for a broad spectrum of clients from telecom carriers to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and peering points, IT and cloud providers, content providers as well as enterprise and financial service customers.
These data centres are hyper-connected hubs that provide colocation services, including power, security, network access, redundancy, rack space, and precision cooling to iColo’s customers.
They are carrier-neutral, meaning that the company welcomes all interested carriers into its data centres.
This 4,460 square metre facility in Nyali is the third by the company and the second in Mombasa, having also erected one in Miritini (Mombasa One - MBA1) in 2017 and another in Nairobi, Nairobi One (NBO1) campus, which opened in September 2019. MBA1 has a 226 rack capacity while NBO1 has a 228 rack capacity and over 30 different carriers.
The Coast region was chosen because the port city of Mombasa is the landing station for all of the undersea cable operators and also the international network hub for internet traffic in the region.
iColo Chief Executive Ranjith Chrickel looks at the firm’s latest investment with pride. Mombasa, he says, is the gateway into the East and Central Africa regions. His company is accelerating the rate at which the regions can access and be accessed by the rest of the world.
And multinationals are quickly finding their way to Mombasa and then into the hinterland. “The internet in Kenya starts in Mombasa. Here we have sub-sea cables that come in and land in the port city of Mombasa, so if you do not have equipped data centre infrastructure here, the cables do not come. And If they don’t, then we cannot build further infrastructure in the country,” says Mr Chrickel.
A data centre is a huge investment in this time and age. In this fortified building, companies store their servers away from saboteurs.
A data centre also ensures a reliable supply of power, with more than the needed capacity that will help mitigate against cuts that could lead to interruption of server functioning.
While they are connected to the national power grid and linked using dedicated lines on which power can be restored as soon as an outage occurs, they also generate solar energy besides using diesel-powered generators that can last the station for days as backup.
There is no taking chances inside a data centre. Their core goal is to provide security for clients’ sensitive data.
iColo’s data centres are designed with two independent power lines that terminate in each rack.
Power is cascaded to multiple resilient distribution boards that enable the servicing of multiple zones simultaneously.
Inside this space, clients exchange services, with internet service providers providing their services to clients who have stored their data in the building.
These customers can negotiate rates and enter into agreements within this space. It is like a marketplace where many goods and services can be accessed all under one roof. The coastal data centres are also the docking points for international companies looking for regional presence.
iColo plans to tap into this demand by launching two other data centres at the Coast - one adjacent to Mombasa One in Miritini and another next to Mombasa Two in Nyali.
Two others will be coming up alongside the mega one in Nairobi as well.
On the inside, MBA2 looks like a safe house with CCTV surveillance cameras in every corner, smoke detectors staring down ready to pick up the faintest hint of dust or smoke particles, and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) machines.
The UPS provides clean, continuous power to the systems and is used in instances where there is a discontinuation in power supply to fill in the gap before stable power is reinstated or power source is switched on.
Engineers in the building are always monitoring the systems and they always know what cable needs fixing and what tank needs refilling.
The building needs to be cool enough for the optimal performance of the servers. For every kilowatt of electricity consumed by the servers, about one kilowatt of heat is produced. “This means that managing heat and humidity is an important function of our facilities,” iColo says.
While some large customers grab multiple racks, others take just a small fraction of a rack. Customers are allowed to customise their racks.
“Our large customers may take up to 50 racks, but we have single racks and quarter racks,” says Chrickel.
Data centres are safe havens that prevent crucial data from getting lost or damaged. Some companies prefer to keep their servers in their own data centres but have to incur the costs of keeping that data safe.