The data centre tide

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21 August 2015 | 0

Paul HearnsBack in late 2013, after a conversation with a data centre industry veteran, I blogged that Ireland seemed to be predominantly attracting one type of data centre over another.

The person observed that we seemed to have more data centres that were from smaller, but not necessarily small, providers geared towards serving more individual or sophisticated needs rather than sheer web scale.

I perhaps roguishly used the term “yellow pack” data centres to indicate the giant, web-scale facility that is often the home of the likes of Facebook and other giants of scale.

“The reasons for siting here appear to remain the same: prevailing conditions (environmental, political, economic and legislative), proximity to Europe, good connectivity, and the availability of skills in both construction and operation.”

While even then, the likes of Amazon and Microsoft had built large DC facilities here, there seemed to be more of the smaller providers here who were providing more of a tailored service.

Today, the announcement of Google’s latest DC investment in west Dublin may actually be the tipping point to say that the earlier observation is now superseded.

Since 2013, Microsoft, Amazon, Digital Realty, Apple and Facebook have either constructed or announced the construction of major DC facilities in this country. These are supporting everything from consumer services, web-scale applications and cloud computing platforms. And while these might be a small few companies numerically, they collectively represent a large proportion of the traffic that flows over the Internet every day.

The reasons for siting here appear to remain the same: prevailing conditions (environmental, political, economic and legislative), proximity to Europe, good connectivity, and the availability of skills in both construction and operation.

This is all good news, and while I’m not terribly surprised to see this development potentially overturning the earlier observation, it does not necessarily mean that other side of the data centre sector here has fundamentally changed. If anything it has actually strengthened.

By way of example, in a similar timeframe, the likes of Telecity Group, Interxion and BT have all expanded, with Dataplex and PlanNet21 opening new data centre facilities too.

Then there are Irish companies such as eircom, Digiweb, Blacknight and Servecentric, several of which have opened new, or expanded existing, DC facilities. All of these have been built to the highest international standards, boasting impressive PUE scores.

An anchor tenant for the Dataplex facility near Ballycoolin in west Dublin, Continent 8, said that the Dataplex B10 facility in was the most technologically advanced one used by the company globally.

Added to this was the recent opening by Hanley Energy of its data centre research facility in Meath, and the picture that emerges is of leadership in the space. So far from one side of the balance dipping as the other ascends, it seems more like a rising tide lifting all boats — to mix metaphors for a moment.

As the world moves toward more and more data, apps and services in the cloud, more and more of it will live or be served from Ireland, whether at web-scale, or just globally to whomever wants it.

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