“The barriers confronting organizations in South Africa that want to achieve carbon neutral status by 2030 are significant. Among them is the simple reality that most of the nation’s power production originates from coal-fired plants located in the northeastern part of the country while the greatest potential impact for sustainable approaches like solar and wind lie in the south. We can’t immediately upend the entire power grid structure, but together with a willing and enthusiastic government and strong partners like VMware, we can make a difference. We now have a framework in place to support Africa’s nascent efforts to achieve zero carbon emissions and support providers intent to achieve and apply the tenets of VMware Zero Carbon Committed program to their operations.”
– Bryce Allan, head of sustainability at Teraco Data Environments
Sumeeth Singh, head of VMware’s Cloud Provider Business in sub-Saharan Africa, was not surprised when the region’s leading cloud solutions and services companies enthusiastically embraced the VMware Cloud Verified initiative. With an established track record of success and extensive experience with the full VMware stack, many were ideally prepared to complete the rigorous process to apply for and receive the distinction.
The VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative was, however, a different story. Singh knew that among providers the intent and desire to decrease their carbon footprints was strong. But the requirements, difficult in areas with an already mature sustainable energy infrastructure in place, were overwhelming in sub-Saharan Africa.
Specifically, partners would be required to commit that their data centers achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030, an effort that would require the use of 100% renewable energy. For partners in Europe where significant renewable energy sources exist in conjunction with a mature regulatory system of carbon offsets and credits, the process is still difficult.
“Like their counterparts in Europe, South African companies are increasingly mindful of resource constraints and the impact of fossil fuels on climate change,” said Singh. “They are also becoming more and more aware that their data center operations are a very large contributor to their overall carbon footprint. They also know that electricity in sub-Saharan Africa is primarily sourced from coal-fired plants. They want to do the right thing and minimize their emissions, but they are also seeing a dramatic increase in demand for hybrid and multi-cloud solutions and services – a reality that means they need more power, not less.”
Singh notes that for most partners, the resulting reality is that it would simply be unrealistic to pledge to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030 because there are not enough renewable sources of energy in place to make it feasible. When no partners signed up for the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative, it was both a disappointment and a validation.
“Partners here didn’t sign up for this initiative not because they didn’t want to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030, but because they didn’t think it was a realistic goal,” he says. More to the point, they didn’t view VMware Zero Carbon Committed as a marketing effort, but rather as a genuine commitment that should only be made if they believed they could achieve what they signed up for.”
Singh had a choice. He could either accept that the requirements for VMware Zero Carbon Committed were too challenging for the region, or he could find an alternative.
“We don’t have the luxury to postpone taking action when it comes to climate change,” he adds. “We have to do something now. In our case, we could either wait to ramp up the Zero Carbon Committed initiative until South Africa’s sustainability efforts are more mature – in other words do nothing now – or we could modify the requirements to find a more manageable solution.”
That solution came in the form of Teraco, South Africa’s largest and most interconnected data center platform. With four ultra high-performance data centers in South Africa – including facilities in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg – the company forms the core of the nation’s internet backbone, and serves as the interconnection for both local and global cloud services. Providing the connectivity for the Africa Cloud Exchange, Teraco’s carrier and cloud neutral platform is also Africa’s largest hub for AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.
In addition, it serves as the direct access point for more than 300 network providers, including telecommunications, terrestrial fiber, satellite connectivity, and submarine cable carriers; as well as more than 130 IT service providers, leading enterprises and financial services companies, and innumerable Internet eXchange points. Recently acquired by Digital Reality – the world’s largest provider of cloud and carrier neutral data center, colocation, and interconnection solutions – the company’s role connecting Africa to the world’s IT infrastructure will only increase.
Teraco is also the co-location provider of choice for most VMware Cloud Verified partners. But perhaps most importantly for those organizations that want to embrace VMware Zero Carbon committed, it is also no stranger to efforts to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, it was already in the midst of Africa’s most ambitious effort to produce 100% sustainable power.
Singh saw an opportunity. If VMware Cloud Verified partners could engage Teraco for data center services that use the company’s renewable energy, they could offset their own power usage and realistically commit to significantly decrease their own carbon footprint.
It was an effort Bryce Allan, head of sustainability at Teraco Data Environments, immediately embraced.
“At Teraco we are aggressively pushing to increase our use of renewable energy sources,” he says. One of our two newest and most significant solar projects is already under construction and we’ve set aside nearly $250 million over the next five years for the development of renewable energy sources and facilities. We also entered into a development service agreement with an experienced renewable energy developer and are already working with them to build two 100 megawatt solar facilities in Cape Town.”
Allan expects the first of those to go online early in 2023 and to produce 500 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Notably, this is in addition to the company’s extensive solar projects at its data centers, with the facility in Johannesburg already including a high-output solar system that is the first of its kind on the continent. Similar systems are being constructed for each of the company’s data centers, with those expected to be operational by the end of this year.
“We’re really excited to start building big solar plants that make a real impact on the region’s use of fossil fuels,” says Allan. “The fact that we can simultaneously provide motivated VMware Cloud Verified partners with the access to the power they need to make zero carbon emissions a realistic goal is another great benefit.”
Notably, Teraco committed to achieving the use of 50% renewable energy sources by 2027 and 100% renewable energy sources by 2035. Given the difficulty of achieving both goals in Africa, the decision was made to allow VMware Cloud Verified Partners who want to achieve the VMware Zero Carbon Committed distinction to pursue it in conjunction with Teraco and those metrics.
“We are years behind our partners in other areas of the world in our efforts to lower emissions,” adds Singh. “But if we can work together to achieve the use of 50% renewable sources of energy in five years, we will have accomplished something truly significant while simultaneously enabling Africa’s cloud solutions and services providers to pursue contracts that reward and encourage additional efforts to decrease emissions. That is a win for all involved.”
Within days of the partnership with Teraco being announced, five companies in South Africa joined the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative.
The inaugural partners in Africa’s VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative
The first five VMware Cloud Verified partners to embrace the tenets of the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative – and to make the transition to renewable sources of energy a key focus with the goal of using only renewable sources of energy by 2035 – include Network Platforms, Routed, Saicom, Silicon Sky, and Strategix. We recently asked senior leaders at each company to share why they believe it’s crucial to radically decrease carbon emissions.
Network Platforms – Servicing businesses since 2003, Network Platforms provides a host of solutions to create effective ICT business environments. Its services are tailored to help businesses grow through increased productivity, profitability, and peace of mind. Its range of world-class, innovative products and services enables businesses to connect, communicate, and collaborate.
“It is imperative for all companies in Africa to look at the big picture and how we can collectively transition to renewable sources of energy. By transitioning to the cloud and software-defined data centers enterprises are taking a positive step for the environment. If we can run the hardware required for those endeavors with renewable sources of energy, we can collectively make a huge difference.”
– Bradley Love, founder and CEO of Network Platforms.
Routed – Routed is an experienced South African specialist VMware Cloud Operator offering scalable – full or hybrid cloud – vendor neutral hosting solutions. As a VMware Principal Partner, Routed proudly boast many “firsts”: first VMware Cloud Verified provider in Africa; first Validated VMware DRaaS provider in Africa; and now also a VMware Zero Carbon Committed partner, backed by the highest levels of sales, service, and support for its partners and customers.
“Routed empowers its partners and its customers to prosper and grow, grounded by solid and secure cloud infrastructure foundations. In much the same way, the baobob tree, our company symbol, provides for people in Africa’s savannah regions – serving as the tree of life and giving them the materials they need for shelter, clothing, food, and water – all while providing the roots that serve as a strong foundation. We like to think of ourselves as the baobob of cloud infrastructure providers. That means we must safeguard our environment here in Africa and that starts with a commitment to decrease emissions.”
– Andrew Cruise, managing director of Routed
Saicom – Saicom is a leading service provider in the local market delivering a host of solutions designed to help organizations move to the cloud, improve their collaboration and deliver an unsurpassed customer experience. Saicom understands that what businesses need most, as they navigate the move to the cloud, is choice, support, and flexible solution architecture.
“The environment in Africa is one of the world’s richest and most beautiful. We must take action to ensure that we can pass it on to future generations. Climate change is a horrific danger, but it’s also a wakeup call that we cannot continue to build our businesses and our lives around sources of energy that are finite and that once used cannot be replaced. As an ICT leader, we have an opportunity to help our customers do more with less impact on the environment by embracing a software-defined approach that simultaneously delivers unprecedented computing power and potential.”
– Kyle Woolf, CEO of Saicom
Silicon Sky – Silicon Sky is a specialist IT infrastructure service provider. Silicon Sky specializes in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Silicon Sky has a vast IaaS portfolio including compute, network, storage, security, backup, recovery and disaster recovery. Silicon Sky has enterprise grade managed cloud platforms co-located in multiple carrier natural data centers in South Africa and the USA.
“ICT has transformed how companies do business and so many aspects of how we live our lives. As a cloud services and solutions leaders, we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to demonstrate in our words and more importantly in our actions, how technology can combat climate change and make a difference. VMware Zero Carbon Committed presents us with an exceptional opportunity to do just that.”
– Brenton Halsted, CEO of Silicon Sky
Strategix – Strategix Cloud Services provides flexible, scalable, secure, simplified costings easy to scale. Strategix is the only certified cloud provider as well as VMware PSO certified (Professional Services Organization), thereby offering assurances to assist customers in their digital evolution including, application modernization and digital workspace in public, private, or hybrid Clouds.
“We strive to always make an impact in a positive manner in our work with customers and our interactions with each other. That same philosophy applies to imperatives like sustainability and efforts to address climate change. Action and positive impact begin with making a commitment. For Strategix, that begins with pursuing the VMware Zero Carbon Committed distinction.”
– Jaco Stoltz, CEO of Strategix
For more information on VMware’s partnership with Teraco, view VMware’s “Feature Friday” video podcast here.
Green IT, IT Leadership, VMware