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Host in Ireland’s Garry Connolly’s – Industry Insight’s

Q.1 – How did you first become involved in the data centre sector?

A.1 My first involvement with data centres in Ireland was in the 1980s with the advent of local area networks. For larger clients, these servers would be colocated with the mini computers (AS400 / Unix) or mainframes (IBM, DEC, Honeywell) and the locations where they were sited would be either called a data or a communications room.

With the Dot.Com bubble in the late 1990s, we saw the first custom-built, commercial data centres from the likes of Inflow, Colo.com and Worldport. We would have been involved in the design, installation and commissioning of the internal structured wiring systems and the key voice and data electronics of AT&T (CommScope), Juniper, Cisco and 3Com. And, as they say, the rest is history.

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

A.2 In business, where you have change, you have indecision and perceived risk, which ultimately leads to delays in decision making. After the initial period post-Brexit when the UK and international markets assessed the effects of the referendum, companies started to look at the short and medium-term effects.

Since January 2017, we have started to see announcements from financial services and other companies that they will be moving part of their UK operations to post-Brexit EU locations. Dublin, especially, has been selected by its fair share of these enterprises based on its strong pedigree and involvement in the Ireland-France Subsea Cable (IFSC) for the past 25 years. The data centre and hosting decisions have not had the same level of amplification for obvious reasons. However, as Ireland has over 60 years of experience in the “data” sector, it is expected that companies, in particular U.S. organisations, will look favorably at hosting content here.

GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is the hottest acronym in the ICT/ data privacy universe right now, and given that it is a citizen-centric set of laws, it affects every industry sector and subsector now, and will become applicable to 550 million EU Citizens on the 25 May 2018 (GDPR Enforcement Day). GDPR is a complex regulation, and while the location of your Data Protection Officer (DPO) and where a company’s data is hosted do not have to be the same, since Ireland has English as its first language, and the legal structure is based on a common law framework, the Irish Commissioner for Data Protection, Helen Dixon, has increased her headcount over 250 percent and was allocated an additional €4m allocated to her office in the recent budget.

GDPR certainly will become another site location factor for organisations when considering where their data will rest, and it will be an interesting space to monitor as we start to see the enforcement of the regulation. One trend that is clear is that U.S. companies are now looking to host more data within the EU, as distinct from providing service from the U.S. or APAC. With Privacy Shield (Replacement for Safe Harbour) under increased scrutiny, the area of data privacy/data protection and compliance will be front and centre of board room discussions for the foreseeable future.

Q.3 – Ireland punches above its weight in data centre investment, in your opinion, “What factors have driven this?”

A.3 I don’t agree at all that Ireland punches above its weight with regard to data centre investment. Over the past 60 years Ireland has always had very strong links with the U.S. From IBM first coming here in 1956, to the current announcements and expansions from companies like LinkedIn and Dropbox, Ireland has had an Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) product that U.S. companies want based on policies and talent.

The data centre industry in Ireland is no different from any other form of FDI. However, what makes us unique is the blend of benefits we refer to as the ‘6 Ps’: policies, pedigree, people, power, pipes and proximity. The type of “data” that you are hosting will determine the location, type and “centre” that you choose, and now we see the emergence of proximity-based data centre location selection. The fact that Ireland now boasts all the major cloud, hyperscale and colocation providers has earned it the rightful name of “Home of the Hybrid Cloud,” and “Tier 1 Location for Hosting Digital Content in Europe.”

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 The current demand for Irish data centre space is so great that supply is now having to catch up with the demand. This has been highlighted recently with both the energy supply challenges and the observations on the Apple planning applications. Ireland INC needs to provide a much better level of predictability about when it can deliver both the planning and the power for proposed new and existing facility expansions. The data hosting space, like all forms of FDI, is competitive and the market will only wait for so long before its business will move someplace else.

In saying that, the challenge Ireland faces is far better than having an oversupply and lack of demand. However, Ireland INC cannot be complacent and needs to talk less about the weather and more about the provisioning of green and available energy where it is most needed, such as in the Dublin metropolitan area.

Over the next three to five years you will see proximity become a major site selection consideration for both data in transit and at rest. This will be in terms of nearness to both the eyeballs and the devices (edge, cities, metropolitan, in-country), as well as proximity to all major cloud and colocation providers (Dublin, London, Amsterdam) and lower-cost energy (North Nordics).

We are only now entering the start of the data-driven era, and the amount of data generated, stored and forwarded is doubling every six to nine months. As more machines (things) are added to the network, it is anticipated that by 2022 the data from IOT / IOE will overtake that created by humans, but not all data will be the same. Therefore, Ireland, with its ‘6 Ps’ proposition, should continue to be a Tier 1 player. However, in the short to medium-term it needs to sort out planning and power, or risk reputation damage from which it may not be able to recover.