Editor’s note: With the submarine fiber optic cable industry, you can never overstate the importance of geography.  As the telecom market has evolved with the huge demand for Internet services worldwide, the geography of submarine cables has in recent years merged with another key aspect of the global telecommunications network – the geography of data centres. 

I recently had the pleasure to speak with Garry Connolly, Founder and President of Host in Ireland, an industry-led initiative designed to raise awareness of Ireland as the home of the hybrid cloud.  Garry has some interesting thoughts on the geography of data centres which the submarine cable industry should take note of. 

“Perhaps the most dramatic change in the geography of the submarine cable industry has been caused by the need to connect data centres,” Garry said.  “New cable systems are now being routed with an eye to connect major data centre locations.  Ireland, which is being called the “Data Centre Valley” with its booming data centre market and strategic location as a gateway to Europe, has become the leading destination for new transatlantic cables, including the most recent one – the HAVFRUE cable announced in January.” 

“I use the word proximity a lot.  Because what is a data centre?  It’s an aggregation point where data and storage collide for one reason – to increase the user experience.  There’s no getting around the fact that proximity between the Internet of Things (IoT) and the “edge” needs to be very close, with 50 billion “things” that are going to be spun around the world by the end of 2021.  So that’s one proximity for data centres, to have pure proximity to the IoT.” 

“The second type of proximity is clustering.  Service providers and data centre operators who have the extension at the edge have their own aggregation points where they’re all in a cluster.  Dublin would be one of those clusters where you have the hyperscale colocation guys, the enterprise guys, etc. – they’re all aggregating in one central location.  You then have interoperability between all of these different services.  You don’t want to have to go over a boundary to aggregate.  The proximity of clustering is much more efficient.” 

“The third type of proximity is where you have proximity to a very high percentage of renewable power at a very economic price.  The power demands of data centres is so great and the impact on climate is so important right now that proximity to inexpensive, renewable power is critical.” 

I like to talk about the “5 Ps” that have proven so successful for the data centre industry in Ireland.  These are:

  • Pedigree (a pragmatic, pro-business approach)
  • Policies (that support the integrity of the data)
  • People (a highly educated, experienced, tech-savvy, multifaceted and multilingual workforce)
  • Power (aggressively exploiting renewable energy resources)
  • Pipes (secure and resilient low-latency global connectivity)

“My sense is that the data centres will be located at the optimal location for the data rather than just building the centres and trying to make the data work around the location of the centres.  I think that is the architecture of the connected planet that we’re in now.  You have to look at the different geographic areas and say, which one will be better or worse than the other.  And the reality is that you can have political discussion, you can have a philosophical discussion; you can have all these discussions that you want but ultimately, the decisions will be made by the owners of the data as to where the optimum place is that the data rests.  That decision will be made on a number of factors (physical, virtual, logical),” Garry concluded.