Microsoft plans to open two new data centers in South Africa next year to provide its cloud services to the continent, one of the first major cloud providers to set up a dedicated region in Africa.
The two data centers will be located in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and provide local access to Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and other Microsoft Cloud services. Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform both service African customers out of data centers in Europe. IBM Bluemix opened a data center in South Africa last year.
Most application users probably wouldn’t notice if they were being served locally or from a far-flung data center, but latency is a huge problem for some applications. Cloud companies have greatly expanded their geographic reach over the last several years to combat that problem; Atlassian recently announced plans to serve European customers out of AWS data centers in Europe to improve their performance.
Microsoft said “initial availability” will arrive in 2018 but did not get more specific. Africa has been expected to be a huge source of technology investment growth over the next decade for a while, and Microsoft’s decision might spur other cloud companies to follow.
[Editor’s note: Due to outdated region information on IBM Bluemix’s web page, this story originally stated that Microsoft was the first major cloud provider to announce an African data center.]