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January 25, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 9:40am

How Ireland is pushing itself as a data centre hub with energy, education and policy

Analysis: Ireland’s journey to stable economy continues with data centres at its centre.

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Data centre capital investment into Ireland was more than $4bn since 2008.

And the countries position as a data centre hub of Western Europe continues to consolidate with Facebook being the latest US firm to announce a construction project, this one worth 200m euros.

In sq mts, MWs of power or investment Ireland won’t reach the scale of London or the UK anytime soon but Ireland’s brand as an attractive destination for data centres is being built on global web brands opting to build in the country.

Google, Microsoft, AWS, Apple, Facebook, Digital Realty, and a long list of IT services providers, have tapped into the Irish market.

Apple invested $1bn on data centres. It will expand its footprint another 263,000 sq ft hub expected to open in 2017.

Amazon has also bet big, and has applied €3.7bn in overall direct data centre investments in Ireland.

Google is currently investing €150m in a new facility, bringing total investments in its Irish data centres to €515m since the firm’s first facility opened in 2012.

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Facebook and Microsoft have also broken ground with more expansion, with projects topping over €100m and €70m respectively. Microsoft’s total data centre investment has also surpassed the $1b barrier last year.

In 2014 and 2015, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook, have invested more than $2bn.

Dublin is home to some of the largest data centres in the world. In 2009, Microsoft built a 500,000 sq ft unit in the South of the City in Clondalkin and in 2011 Amazon transformed an old Tesco warehouse into a 240,000 sq ft colo site in a 3 km away in Walkinstown.

Today, Ireland has 17 collocation data centres, 15 in Dublin, one in Galway and one in Cork. Operators include Equinix (last week it completed the acquisition of TelecityGroup which operated four data centres in Dublin), Digital Realty and Interxion.

Garry Connolly, president of Host In Ireland, an agency which promotes Ireland as data centre destination, told CBR: "Ireland concentrates on attracting the "Data", and the "Centres" naturally follow, with our Pro Business Policies, commitment to "Green Cloud" and Diverse and Resilient connectivity we provide a solution from the Compliance Officer to the IT Manager."

Why Ireland?

Ireland’s economy has hit hard in the financial crisis of 2008 with the country facing bankruptcy. After several bail outs, including one from the UK Treasury and several year’s of severe austerity the economy has started to show growth.

Irish GDP grew 4.8% in 2014 and growth of around 3.9% for 2015 expected and projections of 3.3% this year and 2.8% in 2017.

Speaking to CBR, Mitul Patel, associate director for data centre research at CBRE, told CBR: "It is no secret that most of the global leaders in the IT Infrastructure sector operate large data centres in Dublin or are building large data centres there. Dublin has established itself as a key data centre market for hyper-scale IT Infrastructure firms.

"Consequently, US companies looking to dip their toe into Europe have started to use Dublin as a key landing point before expanding Eastward into more traditional markets. Crucially, it is difficult to get away from Dublin’s extremely favourable corporate tax structure as an attractive proposition, which is a big pull for these US firms seeking data centre operations in Europe."

Corporation tax in Ireland is set at a controversial rate of 12.5%. The UK stands at 20%, while other countries like Singapore (17%), Portugal (21%), Sweden (22%), China (25%), Luxembourg (29.22%), Germany (30%), France (33.33%) and the USA (35%) have higher rates of corporation tax.

According to Host in Ireland, the country also has 100% EU Data Protection compliant legislation, is politically stable and has a pro-business Irish Data Protection Act.

However, Connolly left a warning that Europe and the US need to accelerate the process of agreeing the terms of a replacement to Safe Harbour, the proposed Harmonised EU Data Protection act, "which cannot get ratified quickly enough".

He said: "This uncertainty is not helpful for the EU Data industry in general and Ireland as the Gateway to Europe for US Companies is not immune to the concerns raised by the vacuum that exists currently."

Ireland has a young population which it promotes as educated in science and computing.

According to its Higher Education Authority in 2014, 43,164 students completed an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree in science, mathematics and computing,.

With 40.2% of the population under 29 years, according to Eurostat, the country is also above the EU average (32.2%) and the UK’s average of 37.2% of such an amount of Millennials, Gen Y and Z inhabitants.

The country has long been an exporter of people. The years 2014 and 2015 saw a slow down in the numbers of emigres. In 2014 around 40,000 Irish nationals left the country and in 2015 this number dropped to around 30,000 from and overall population of 3.5 million.

Connectivity

On top of the policies, people and education, Ireland’s connectivity infrastructure is excellent as it is the landing spot for transatlantic cables connecting Europe to North America.

The world’s first transatlantic cable was in fact deployed between Telegraph Field, Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia Island in western Ireland and Heart’s Content in eastern Newfoundland, in 1858.

Last year, the country saw two transatlantic cables being deployed for the first time in 12 years connecting EMEA to North America.

In August, Hibernia Networks deployed a 4,600 Km low latency fibre optic submarine cable linking Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada to Cork, Ireland.

With 100Gbps transmission speeds, the €273m project allows data to travel across the Atlantic ocean within 60 milliseconds, four to five milliseconds faster than others companies’ submarine cables, according to Hibernia Networks.

The company said that the Hibernia Express cable will yield in excess of 10Tbps per fibre pair, nearly three times more the capacity delivered on current transatlantic systems.

In November, colo Digital Realty announced it had partnered with AquaComms, a provider of scalable, subsea capacity-based network solutions, to deploy a transatlantic fibre optic system, the America Europe Connect (AEConnect).

Spanning more than 5,400 kilometres between Long Island and the west coast of Ireland, with stubbed branching units for future landings, the subsea cable features 130 gigabits per second by 100 gigabits per second, per fibre pair, which will provide low-latency connectivity from New York to Ireland, London and to greater Europe.

With over 50 carriers in operation, the country is also home to the main international operators including BT, AT&T, Verizon, Colt, Level(3) and more.

The main internet peering association is Inex, a neutral, industry-owned Association, founded in 1996, that provides IP peering facilities for its members.

Energy, power & renewables

According to Host in Ireland 23.7% of the nation’s energy is produced using green sources. 19% of the electricity in Ireland comes from wind harvesting, which produced in 2014 2,111MW of energy.

The government expects renewable sources to count for 40% of energy generation by 2020.

As for cooling options, Ireland’s climate is temperate with no extreme conditions. With an average 20 degrees and a low of six degrees.

Jon Leppard, director at Future Facilities, told CBR: "The Irish data centre environment provides advantages in tax structures, has lots of space that is cheaper than the UK, and offers a good power infrastructure. It also has a good climate to take advantage of free cooling. All of this helps manage the cost of compute. Being the closest point of communications to the US, there are latency and bandwidth advantages, which support improved performance."

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