An Interview with Tanya Duncan, Managing Director of Interxion’s Dublin Campus

Editor’s Note: I have spoken before about the importance of geography in the submarine cable industry.  In the northern transatlantic submarine cable route, Ireland is in the center of this geography.  With a long history at the forefront of the high-tech industry, Ireland has taken a key role in the data center market.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Tanya Duncan, Managing Director of Interxion’s Dublin campus about the data center market in Ireland and the country’s geographic position in the European data center and submarine cable industries. 

“Interxion is a European provider of carrier and cloud-neutral colocation data center services based in Amsterdam.  We have been in operation since 1998 so we have seen the data center industry evolve through its peaks and troughs within Europe and globally over the past 20 years.

We have data centers throughout Europe, with Dublin being one where we have been operating since 2001. We have seen quite a different pattern emerge in Dublin than elsewhere.

We have seen a lot of interest and substance being deployed in Ireland from both the US and globally because of various aspects – we call it the packaged deal.  We are the only English-speaking company in the Eurozone.  One-third of our population is under 25 and very tech savvy. It is what you would expect from a progressive society. It is that talent that is of interest to a lot of US tech companies when it comes to putting their data assets here.  As the European headquarters for many of the world’s best-known tech companies, Ireland is strategically positioned on the data and trading highways between Europe and the USA. It is not just any one of those things – it is the package of all of those elements that has allowed Ireland to succeed.

We have three data centers in Ireland based in the greater Dublin area, which is where most data centers are located.  We have grown organically being a carrier neutral data center – that has always been our point. Over the years, the connectivity proposition of being carrier neutral has been a huge benefit. There are a vast number of international and local connectivity providers that becomes a very attractive platform for bringing new business into our data centers. Our client base likes to have the freedom to choose whatever carrier they want, they like that resilience and good value. 

This has really allowed us to grow into this kind of connectivity hub.  We often say that we are not in the data business, we are in the connectivity business. This has now evolved one step further in that data centers have to be part of the hyperscale cloud world. We now have direct connections into the cloud service providers, much like we do with our carriers and ISPs. This gives our clients the ability to not only connect to the outside world and to their end users but also at the backend into the cloud service provider to utilize their services. This gives them improved security, reliability, throughput, performance, you name it.  It’s been a real success. 

I am of the opinion that data centers and submarine cables are interdependent. Data centers are the connectivity hubs and exchange points for international traffic, as well as metro and everything else.  More and more they are the “airports” -- interconnection points where all this traffic converges. 

Ireland has emerged one of these major interconnection points.  Look at how many of the key transatlantic cables land in Ireland – Hibernia Express, AEConnect-1, the new Havfrue cable.  Then there is the planned Ireland-France Cable (IFC) that will bypass the United Kingdom.  These submarine cable operators recognize the importance of Ireland’s data centers and the need to connect them to the other hubs in Europe. 

The number of transatlantic cables landing in Ireland gives a good indication of how strategic Ireland is in terms of both a data center, and I mean that literally as a center where data resides within Europe.  It is a geographical hub for various communities and it has become a very central location for a lot of organizations, not just from the US but looking globally to service a European customer base.  The necessity to be on mainland Europe is not necessarily there as we have the connectivity and hops from Ireland across to mainland Europe. So over time, Ireland has really developed quite a substantial history with technology and technology companies. That has evolve into the new wave of technology companies that are putting in European headquarters here in Ireland. 

Ireland is quite unique in Europe as we have a strong presence of both hyperscale data center providers and, what we describe ourselves as, multi-tenant data center providers.  So the connectivity demands very heavily balanced on the hyperscale providers that operate out of Ireland.  Most of these – Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc. – have a significant presence in Ireland. They are not going to service a European client base with communications back to the US and elsewhere without having strong connectivity. 

To us, hosting in an island nation, you are stranded without the international connectivity that submarine cables provide, both in terms of the immense capacity and the resilience and the reliability of that connectivity as well.  So Ireland has become a proven place over time to put your data assets to serve a European customer base or in many other ways depending on the information that you are hosting.”