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INEX’s Barry Rhodes’ – Industry Insights

Q.1 – How did you first become involved in the Data Centre Sector?

A.1 – INEX is Ireland’s Internet Exchange, a neutral, not-for-profit Association. When I joined INEX, as CEO in 2003, there was a hub funded by nine connecting members, located in a single Dublin data centre. Now, over 100 ISPs and content providers can exchange their Internet traffic with each other through any one of six Dublin data centres, which INEX links with dark fibre over two resilient local area networks. There is also a separate INEX exchange point located in a Cork data centre.

Q.2 – How do you think Brexit and GDPR will impact the storage of data and the location of data centres?

A.2 – As an English born person who has resided in Dublin for over 40 years, I am disappointed that the UK is leaving the European Union, but I expect Ireland to benefit in more ways than it loses out. Ireland’s geographical location and English speaking population provide a natural ‘stepping stone’ for North American businesses expanding into the vast European marketplace. Ireland has already attracted significant clusters of ICT, pharmaceutical and financial organisations that have successfully located their European headquarters here and there are encouraging signs that this trend is set to continue and will probably accelerate, as Britain goes it alone. Ireland is a ‘neutral’ European Union and Eurozone (€) member with a proven history of facilitating national and international organisations with their data protection issues, while totally respecting citizens’ rights to privacy. Although it is Dublin that has benefited most from data centre activity in Ireland, it is noticeable that international organisations are increasingly looking to host their digital assets outside of the capital, particularly in the Cork region.

Q.3 – Ireland punches above its weight in Data Centres Investment, in your opinion, “What factors have driven this?”

A.3 – Ireland enjoys a rare combination of circumstances that make it an ideal environment for locating data centres. In brief, these include; a temperate climate with no extreme temperatures, a low risk environment re hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, terrorism, union strikes, etc.; ideally situated between North America and Europe; a history of successful and continuing investments by ‘Born on the Internet’ companies; good international connectivity (subsea cables) with more anticipated; a competitive indigenous telecommunications market; a young, highly educated, English speaking workforce; a stable, moderate political environment; a fixed, low corporation tax rate of 12.5%; ease of obtaining technical visas facilitates for qualified immigrants; an excellent, respected inward investment promotion company (IDA); stable power suppliers that are increasingly using renewable energy sources; and finally a strong pedigree of organisations that are already storing huge volumes of data here and are continuing to expand their Irish footprint, including the hyperscales – Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook.

Q.4 – What are the opportunities or challenges facing the Data Centre Sector over the next few years? and for Ireland in particular?

A.4 – With the volume of data expected to double every two years over the next decade there is little doubt that Ireland will continue to benefit from the establishment of new and increased data centre activity. Already the FLAP data centre acronym is being expanded to FLAPD (being Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin). This interest is not restricted to US organisations, as there are now regular visits to this country in this respect by companies from several Asian countries. The only potential threat would seem to be due to the saturation effect that could occur in the greater Dublin area, including availability of sufficient power at the right cost, worsening traffic congestion and rising prices for both commercial and residential property. This provides an opportunity for other Irish regions, particularly in the south and west, where these perceived limitations are not a problem. Locating data centres outside of Dublin would also enable new data traffic to be routed away from Dublin and London, providing alternative, resilient options for connecting to mainland Europe.