Teraco to build R4-billion data centre north of OR Tambo

Teraco to build R4-billion data centre north of OR Tambo

The paint has barely dried on phase 1 of Teraco’s huge new expansion of its Isando data centre but the company is already embarking on its next big build: a massive, R4-billion facility north of OR Tambo International Airport.

The new data centre will be the biggest standalone data centre in Africa, with 38MW of base load and 16 000sq m of IT space, Teraco CEO Jan Hnizdo said in a telephonic interview with TechCentral on Monday.

The multibillion-rand data centre, which will be located just off the R21 highway near the Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate, is being built to cater for expected future demand, especially from international technology companies looking for “hyperscale” cloud computing facilities to serve both the South African and sub-Saharan African markets.

Hnizdo said there is already a substantial amount of fibre-optic infrastructure running along the R21 from various telecommunications operators. The new facility is effectively an expansion of Teraco’s Bredell facility further to the south, which is “pretty much sold out”. It is, however, much bigger than Bredell, which has 13MW of critical power load capacity.

At 38MW, the new site — known as JB4 — is only 1MW less than what’s available at the entire Isando campus, which is the site of Teraco’s initial data centre build in Gauteng. The Isando site has expanded significantly over the years from JB1 (which now consists of two buildings) to JB3. The Bredell site is known as JB2.

Debt and equity

JB4 will be paid for through a mix of debt and equity, with long-time Teraco partner Absa again coming to the party with debt funding. Teraco’s main shareholders are Berkshire Partners and Permira Holdings.

The latest data centre build plan comes just months after Teraco announced plans to expand in Cape Town with a new 18MW, 8 000sq m facility. Its small, 1MW site near Durban is also getting an upgrade.

Here are some key facts about the new JB4 facility:

  • It takes critical power load capacity at Teraco facilities to over 110MW, which includes the Isando campus JB1/JB3 (39MW), Bredell JB2 (13MW), Rondebosch Cape Town CT1 (3MW), Brackenfell Cape Town CT2 (18MW) and Durban (1MW).
  • JB4 will be the largest single site data centre on the African continent, comprising 50 000sq m of building structure serviced by 80MW of utility power supply.
  • Located in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg, alongside the R21 business corridor, the facility will have multiple fibre paths to the Teraco Isando campus connectivity hub (JB1/JB3) located about 20km away.
  • JB4 will be built in two phases set across 6ha of land.
  • JB4 phase 1 includes eight 1 000sq m halls with 19MW of critical power load.
  • When completed, it will have 16 1 000sq m halls with 38MW of critical power load.
  • The new data centre development is being built in line with global hyperscale requirements as well as international compliance standards and will augment the existing portfolio of ISO9001-, ISO27001-, PCI-DSS- and ISAE3402-certified data centre facilities.

The JB4 site will be reliant on Eskom for power, at least for now. The building itself, outside the IT space, will use rooftop solar for common-area power needs and lighting. However, the energy-guzzling IT part of the data centre will draw power from Eskom.

Rendition of the Teraco JB4 data centre. Credit: B2 Architects

Rendition of the Teraco JB4 data centre. Credit: B2 Architects

Rendition of the Teraco JB4 data centre. Credit: B2 Architects

“That could change as time moves on, with more and more guys getting into the energy game,” Hnizdo said. “We definitely want to do the right thing (in terms of green energy), but it’s difficult in South Africa right now. You have to buy from the municipality.”

However, he said he is optimistic that the energy landscape is going to change in the coming years and that Teraco will be able to source electricity from alternative sources.