Data Centres – A Bright Light for Ireland’s Future
Over the past eighteen months the world has witnessed a revolution in many aspects of everyday life. We have rapidly adapted to a new way of living and working. This has been driven by information technology and data. The ability to action better business continuity plans, work remotely, stay connected with loved ones, share information globally in an instant, and social media results in an ever-growing amount of data that needs to be stored and transferred every day. Data Centres (DCs) make all this possible. As cost and project management consultants on DC construction over the years, we’ve built a knowledge base in this niche sector. We are delighted to share some interesting facts about Data Centres. We hope they help answer many people’s questions about why DCs matter for Ireland, what does the future hold, and why the sector is a bright light for Ireland’s future.
1. Why is Ireland a Data Centre Hub?
Dublin is now the largest Data Centre (DC) cluster in Europe ahead of rival markets of the FLAPD group (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin). Our location in North West Europe makes us the gateway to Europe. We have deep sea fibre cable connections from the US, Europe and other regions. We have a highly educated workforce and are the only English-speaking EU country. We have a common law legal system which is attractive to many FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) businesses. Ireland has a relatively cool climate, reducing cooling costs. We also have a strong existing presence of FDI companies in the country. Short distances between airports and ports are also beneficial.
2. Exporting Our Expertise & Data
The DC industry in Ireland has existed for over 15 years. Ireland has become a centre of excellence for designing and building DCs. We export that expertise with Irish contractors, sub contractors, suppliers and design teams working abroad. Whereas before many Irish people would have emigrated, now we are exporting our services. Data export is also one of the biggest revenue sources for Ireland now, so our DC industry is significant economically.
3. Employment Generators
There is a common misconception that DCs do not create jobs. In fact, for every million Euro that is spent on construction there are 10 – 12 jobs created during need maintenance and upgrades. While that is a fairly small group, DCs attract FDI companies to Ireland to be nearby for their own resilience, generating more jobs in nearby areas.
4. Power – Short Term Risk, Long Term Potential
A hot topic in the media right now is power and high usage by Data Centres. Ireland now has between 700 and 900 Mega Watts of DCs, which translates to between €7 – €9 billon of construction to date. As reported in our Data Centres InfoCard earlier this year, €7 billion is projected to be invested in DCs in Ireland over the next 5 years. That is a big energy demand. Potential power cuts this winter are a concern. However, this is a short-term risk to deal with and we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. In the long term with the right investment in renewables Ireland will have much greater power capacity. In 5 – 10 years’ time we could be exporting that green power. Decisions based on short term issues could have far reaching consequences for Ireland’s economy.
5. Resilient Power & Fibre Infrastructure is Key
Resilience in power and fibre is vital for DCs. Large FDIs build in resilience by having several fibre suppliers and multiple power modes for their Data Centres, as a back up in case one source goes down. Terms such as N2 and N+1 are used to describe redundancy approaches – see our Data Centres InfoCard Jargon Buster for more details. DCs are full of large batteries and huge engines that will kick in if the power fails. Having power and fibre infrastructures capable of delivering resilience is essential for Ireland’s continued success in the Data Centre sector.
6. Increased Efficiencies & Increased Demand
The technology used in Data Centres is always evolving and getting more efficient. The latest servers are more efficient, as they store more information and use much less energy than previous similar servers. In parallel, the demand for data is growing all the time – data is now integral to everyday life. The amount of data in the world is going to exponentially increase for the foreseeable future.
7. Investment in Green Energy is Vital
Ireland has incredible natural resources that are under used to generate renewable energy. To maintain Ireland’s strong market position in the DC sector, heavy investment in green energy is needed now. EirGrid and SONI summarise how can Ireland achieve it’s renewable ambitions in this report, with more detail on expectations of Data Centre energy demands covered in this detailed report. Wind, wave and tidal power is used to great effect in other countries. Ireland has plenty of both resources, yet we still rely on fossil fuels. In terms of ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) Data Centres are one of the biggest investors in green energy. An example is Facebook’s 25MW wind farm in Cork. Google previously purchased a wind farm to power its DCs, and Microsoft are set to do the same soon.
8. Looking to the Future – Edge Data Centres
In the future cities will be designed to integrate DCs within their fabric. There will be smaller DCs, called Edge Data Centres that will be built closer to city centres. There will also be mini DCs built into the sides of buildings. These will create a network for smart devices that connect to the internet, including guiding automated cars around the cities. Data storage in liquid form is another revolutionary idea in development. This would have a dramatic impact on the space required for DCs.
Data Centres are a key industry for our country’s economic success in the rapidly digitising world we live in. Mitchell McDermott strongly believe there needs to be a greater focus in Ireland on investing in renewable energy, to bolster the DC industry, and benefit society and our economy. Perhaps tax breaks should be considered to incentivise a focus on renewables.
In the short term, Ireland is developing connections with France and Scandinavia for green power. However, Ireland needs be independent and start exporting green power ourselves as we have an abundance of resources. Data demand is only going one way: vertical. We are ready to help our DC clients tackle the challenges faced by the industry, to build better not just for today, but tomorrow too.
– Anthony McDermott