Will ‘success breed success’ for data centre players Echelon?

Irish-owned company enters a fast-growing sector seen as the preserve of Silicon Valley

Echelon Data Centres chief executive Niall Molloy, right, and chief operating officer Graeme McWilliams. Photograph: Alan Betson

Echelon Data Centres chief executive Niall Molloy, right, and chief operating officer Graeme McWilliams. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

There was no shortage of ambition at the launch event for Echelon Data Centres. The new Irish company, led by Niall Molloy of London-based property developers Aldgate Developments, is not only planning a 44,000sq m data centre in Clondalkin and a 45,000sq m centre in Arklow – at a combined development cost of €1 billion – it is warming up to purchase a 20-acre site in Belfast and said site acquisition was “in progress” in London.

The people behind Echelon, who are new to the data centre game, are also eyeing up sites in Amsterdam, Zurich, Vienna and the German city of Freiburg – locations that have the power infrastructure and climate necessary for the functioning of a modern data centre. The scale is part of what will make the business plan work, Molloy explained. The “large occupiers”, or potential ones, of data centres such as these – for example, one of the next wave of video-on-demand streaming services – are seeking that kind of cross-European capacity.

Its strategy, self-funded to date, will be backed throughout the construction and operation phases by unnamed “major international capital partners”. Echelon is not anticipating any planning permission hiccups, Apple style. It wants to operate the sites, not flip them.

Yesterday’s launch received an official Government imprimatur, being attended by Minister for Business Heather Humphreys, who hailed the entry of an Irish company into a space perceived as the preserve of Silicon Valley. “Success breeds success,” she said confidently.

Echelon is betting that big tech companies, including those that don’t currently have a footprint in Ireland, will want to become customers of third-party owned-and-operated data centres in Europe, as they are in the US, rather than owning and operating centres in their own right. This is not a small bet, but it could be a smart one.

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