Big data analysts and online gamers might seem like a disparate group on the face of it. But both had reason to celebrate last week with the launch of a 300 Mbps, uncontended, low latency fibre connection at the opening of The Basement co-working space and innovation lab in the Woodstock Exchange, Cape Town.
The fibre link is powered by Telkom, in partnership with the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) which operates The Basement as an extension of the Bandwidth Barn.
This internet link is amongst the fastest in the country and is set to remove the constraints on innovation due to lack of access to high-speed connectivity. Crucially, the fibre is uncontended, in other words, there is a 1:1 relationship between potential maximum demand, and the available bandwidth — so there is no slowing down during peak times. It also offers the low latency needed for rapid communication with servers internationally thanks to its direct link to SAIX — the South African Internet Exchange and gateway to international connectivity — further enhancing performance. The connection is synchronous (unlike ADSL) which means that same bandwidth is available for upload and download alike. An indication of the size of the link: it is equivalent to 15,000 households’ ADSL needs.
Combined, this gives big data analysts the speed and access to cloud computing needed to crunch huge amounts of raw data to create meaningful customer insights with commercial application. Gamers, on the other hand, get the low latency and high response time needed to compete in and host the large international online gaming tournaments, and be sure their audience will be able to watch the games. In addition the connection enables the development of new games locally, as well as seamless international collaboration.
“Thanks to this fibre and the dramatic step change in connectivity, we are providing the Bandwidth Barn’s ecosystem with the foundation for exponential growth, allowing our entrepreneurs to leapfrog their innovation and stay ahead of the game,” said Ian Merrington, CiTi chief executive officer. “To paint a picture of how much connectivity our members now have access to: downloading or uploading a full-length, full high definition movie will take two to three minutes. Think back to how your world changed when you moved from dial-up to ADSL — this is just a fraction of the multiplier effect that this fibre-based connectivity will have.
“This complements CiTi’s and The Bandwidth Barn’s other value added support of our co-working space, which already includes speciality clusters for collaboration, skills development and also incubation and acceleration programmes.”
“The rapidity and response from overseas servers is massively increased, and, particularly for those working in the big data and gaming spaces, this allows coders to develop much more quickly,” said Ian Russell, Telkom chief administration officer. “But it’s not just a great big pipe with data that lands on you, it’s the ability to have rapid communication both ways. This will allow businesses here to co-create locally and globally in a way that they have never been able to before. It puts them in the driving seat.”
Already the high-speed connectivity is yielding practical dividends:
- The launch of Telkom’s Big Data Unit: the unit headed by Telkom’s newly appointed chief data scientist, Shaun Dippnall, will be based in the Bandwidth Barn to tap into the connectivity as well as the agility and intellectual property of the collaborative ecosystem and the new CiTi data cluster.
- The launch of CiTi’s data cluster in the Bandwidth Barn will assist corporates to transform into truly insight-driven organisations by offering knowledge transfer and advice, advanced analytics and big data product management expertise, and skills development and capability building.
- The launch of the Thomson Reuters data and Innovation lab on 14 October 2016 (http://thomsonreuters.com/en/press-releases/2016/october/newest-thomson-reuters-data-and-innovation-lab-launches-in-cape-town.html).
- In addition, CiTi’s data cluster is set to launch a Data Science academy early next year to address the lack of skills in this area, from upskilling the c-suite through to in depth technical training and internship programmes.
Paul Saunders, who is driving the data cluster at the Bandwidth Barn said: “There can be no doubt that the interest surrounding business analytics, big data and data science in general has transitioned squarely into the mainstream of business decision making worldwide. Here at the data cluster, we aim to help government, corporates and SMEs take advantage of this exciting trend by providing knowledge, advice, product management expertise, and skills and capability development to ensure that the Western Cape remains at the forefront of innovation in this cutting edge field.”
But it’s not just the data geeks and gamers that get access to the connectivity. The Basement, located at the Bandwidth Barn in the Woodstock Exchange’s retail space, will also be home to Telkom’s FutureMakers Innotech alumni, and be available as a co-working space where anyone can access the high-speed fibre on an hourly, daily or monthly basis.
In a way, this is a homecoming for CiTi’s Bandwidth Barn, as it was founded 16 years ago by a group of entrepreneurs pooling resources to access the best bandwidth they could — back then, it was ADSL. What’s more, CiTi and Telkom’s relationship is an enduring one, going back seven years and most recently collaborating on the FutureMakers enterprise and supplier development programme.
“Telkom’s relationship with the Bandwidth Barn goes back seven years and it’s by a long way one of our most successful partnerships in terms of the ideas generation from the hub, and the success of the businesses that come out of here,” said Russell.
The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), develops globally competitive tech and innovation sectors to enable sustainable economic growth and greater employment.