Data, data centres, and the truth about locating in Ireland

I had to look twice and get another shot in my Americano …

Wed, March 6th, 15:26


when I was reading the Cushman & Wakefield list of locations that have been calculated as the most popular for locating a data center.

Ireland’s placement around the middle of the Data Centre Risk Index 2012 rather than closer the top was hard to understand, but it’s quite possible that the latest data may not have been used for some calculations. One of the key features Ireland boasts now is an excellent mix of renewables in the grid, up to 40% by 2020 and completely carbon net neutral by 2035. The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) is spending €22 billion in Ireland on efficiency and renewables, a significant commitment from a small country.

And it’s hard to argue with a data center track record as strong as Ireland: Google, Microsoft and Amazon are already operating multiple sites from Dublin, having decided Ireland has the ideal mix of criteria they’re seeking in a home for their international data centers.

All are enjoying competitive, low latency and high speed links to the East Coast of the US and London, Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt. Social networks, cloud, online gaming, banking and content have all been distributed from Ireland out to the major markets for a number of years now.

All the main criteria needed for a successful deployment are here: energy, fibre and security. Placing Ireland low in international bandwidth stakes is simply nonsense, in light of the abundance of Tier 1 Carriers in Ireland and dark fibre to all major markets available on demand. Ireland’s security is naturally very high, being an island, and we have a relatively low crime rate internationally. I would concede that Ireland could benefit from high speed fibre access to the greater APAC theatre of operations– but that will come in time with demand from that geography to locate cloud infrastructure in Ireland.

Also, the folks over at the The Helpful Engineer have reported that Ireland has the least need of cooling or air conditioning in the whole world, with only 19 degree days required, compared with 40 in Iceland and 43 in Norway.

Decision support for locating your overseas data center

I think it’s important to have rankings like the Data Centre Risk Index; decision support is becoming increasingly critical for companies needing to assess the optimal location for their international data centers. The explosion in demand for cloud computing-based IT services, both business-to-business and business to consumer, is driving unprecedented demand for rack space across the world.

But while business and IT leaders need data to help them find the ideal site, I’d just reiterate that that there are so many gotchas that could introduce risk when locating data centers outside your home territory.

The analysts for the Data Centre Risk Index might have rated oil-rich countries highly for energy security in terms of powering a data center, but how keen are Silicon Valley CEOs to wade into such a desperately unfamiliar social environment, where any number of factors could put their launch dates in doubt? And exactly how easy will it be to staff your Arctic Circle data center with skilled network engineers when the local talent pool may be frozen solid?

Data centers need more than a cold climate to flourish

And you’d have to question whether Sweden may have been overweighted because of the 300,000 square-foot Facebook data center earmarked for construction there now — with the help, as The Telegraph notes, of an estimated £10 million EU structural grant.

A cold climate is brilliant for economic air-conditioning of hot running servers, but again, snow alone does not a happy data center make. The reason Ireland has become such a hub for international data centers is that our cool climate is paired with so many other factors, from a business-positive environment to a deep pool of English-speaking, skilled IT graduates and high speed low latency links to the US, UK and EU. And Ireland’s sustainability profile continues to improve: the ESB’s target is to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2020 and become net-carbon-neutral by 2035.

I’ve already blogged and spoken about the major features that make Ireland the top choice for EMEA data centers, and the IDA has recently given its view on why multinationals keep choosing Ireland. It’s our mix of features that proves so attractive; Ireland is no one-trick pony when it comes to providing the full ecosystem that needs to surround a well-run, well-staffed, well-located international data center.

If you’re choosing where to locate your international data center, it’s best to ensure you get all the information to hand, including softer, more qualitative factors that hard data alone may not reveal. Timelines for major project rollouts are getting shorter every year, and now more than ever, the market doesn’t forgive missteps. For an overall risk-managed answer to the question of where to set up home for your international data center, thinking green, and thinking Ireland, is a good idea.

Jason O’Conaill is eircom’s data center principal and a speaker on cloud computing and green IT issues. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Jason O'Conaill

eircom Business Centre