Neutral feelings

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There are times when being in the middle is a good thing

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1 August 2012 | 0

Neutrality is a funny thing when you think about it. Here we are in Ireland, a proudly neutral country. That neutrality has led to a few awkward moments, of course, such as Eamon De Valera’s condolences to the director of the German diplomatic corps in Ireland, Eduard Hempel, when Hitler died in 1945. Still, if you’re going to be neutral, you ought to do it properly. Seen in this light, you can understand why some people raised a furore a few years ago when suspicions emerged that Shannon airport was being used by flights carrying suspects subjected to extraordinary rendition.

Anyhow, for the most part, neutrality has served Ireland well. It’s one of the countries of choice when it comes to deploying UN peace-keeping forces and police forces in troubled areas even though the numbers in Ireland’s armed forces and Garda are far smaller than many other countries around the world.

All very fascinating but what does any of this have to do with computing? I have to admit that, up until today, I didn’t think it had anything to do with it. But then an email arrived from InTechnology headlined Security and power supply tarnishing London’s data centre appeal and it set me to thinking.

According to InTechnology, which isn’t ashamed to describe itself as a "leading Cloud services provider", 90% of attendees at a recent open day at its new data centre in Reading said they were reluctant "to explore data centres in the city as a result of unpredictable power outages and growing security concerns".

Stefan Haase, divisional product director, data cloud services at InTechnology, said the "shambles" around physical security at the Olympics, which led to the army being called in to provide cover, "has only fuelled the fire, making potential customers question the need to base their data in the capital". Of course, InTechnology used this finding to support the decision to base its new data centre in Reading but I think it could also be worked to Ireland’s advantage.

Aside from the issue of power outages which are, probably, fairly similar in many western capitals, the issue of security of data centres is one which, I think, plays in favour of Dublin (and Ireland). Think about the place where people have traditionally salted away their money, even in times of war and pestilence. That’s right, Switzerland. Why? Partly, I suggest, because of its neutrality. They knew their money was safe from the prospect of foreign armies invading the country and blowing up the bank vaults.

So let’s apply that thinking to data centres and cloud computing. The government is keen to establish the country’s cloud credentials and talk up Ireland’s suitability as a cloud computing hub. To this end, it focuses on a number of factors such as climate, skills base, telecoms connectivity, existing strengths in IT and, not forgetting, geological stability (not many earthquakes, tsunamis or tornadoes here). But what about that other factor which adds to Ireland’s suitability as potential a site for data centres and cloud computing? Neutrality.

Let’s face it, Dublin is not high up on the list of potential terrorist targets. Al Qaeda and other similar factions do not view Ireland’s capital city in the same way as they look at London. The UK has, for better or worse, placed itself firmly on the frontline of the War On Terror and its armed forces were heavily involved in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. From a security standpoint, it is more at risk than Dublin. That’s just the way it is.

It might not be something Ireland would want to advertise too loudly when it comes to making a pitch to companies looking for somewhere to site a data centre, but it’s there all the same. So how about this for a slogan for Ireland? "When it comes to finding somewhere secure to put your data centre, we’re neutral."

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