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Power and space constraints could put brakes on European colocation growth boom, warn experts

Panellists at DCD>Europe discuss barriers to future growth of Europe's booming colocation market, as concerns about the availability of power and space grow larger

The record-breaking take-up rates of datacentre capacity seen across Europe over the past couple of years could be short-lived, due to growing space and power constraints within the continent's major colocation hubs.

The European colocation market is currently booming, fuelled by the growing demand for datacentre capacity from the hyperscale cloud and internet giants, but there are mounting concerns about the long-term sustainability of these growth rates.

Speaking at the DatacenterDynamics DCD>London conference in Old Billingsgate, Andrew Jay, executive director of datacentres at real estate consultancy CBRE, said the colocation hubs of Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris have been adjusting to new high-growth norms since 2016.

To date, these markets have managed to balance the hyperscale demand for colocation capacity with relative ease, but that could change in the next two years, he said.

“The worry for me is [around] the noises we’re hearing from the hyperscale guys and some of the cloud vendors, and [that they’re] looking at 500MW in a year, in those four markets,” he said.

“[That’s] a total paradigm shift. Where we are okay now, but when you’re looking at 500MW – you’re hit with the questions: can we get the land? Can we get the power?”

Public cloud shaping the market

Jay’s comments were made during a panel discussion at the show, looking at the challenges the colocation market face when trying to accommodate the datacentre needs of the hyperscale community.

During the session, Joseph Kava, vice-president of datacentres at Google, shed some light on how latency concerns are dictating a need for its public cloud datacentres to be located close to metropolitan areas.

“Most of our datacentres were historically not in major metro areas. However, the take-up of public cloud has shaped our location strategy quite dramatically. Our customers want their public cloud to be close,” he said.

Similar demands are already starting to affect the Dublin and Amsterdam market, said Jay, and swift action will be needed to ensure the colocation market has the energy and land capacity needed to ensure its growth can continue unimpeded.

As to how to go about addressing these issues, Jay advised European operators should take a look at how their US counterparts have dealt with similar problems of their own.

“Europe is small by comparison to the US. Last year, [the US] had more take-up than all four of the markets in Europe combined. We [can] learn a lot from what happens in the States,” he added.

Other panel members said the situation highlights a need for datacentre operators to cast their nets a bit wider when it comes to sourcing new sites to add to their datacentre portfolios, with Jim Smith, managing director of hyperscale at colocation giant Equinix suggesting Sheffield, in the north of England, as a viable alternative to London.

“In the US, you think of places like Los Angeles, New York, and a little bit of Silicon Valley [these areas are so built up] it makes datacentre construction difficult. Every market in Europe is that way. These big markets are where customers want to be, and it creates difficulties,” he added.

Even so, CBRE’s Jay said focusing their site acquisition activities on less urbanised areas offers a short-term solution to a problem that exists because of how small the UK physically is.

“The UK is a third of the size of Texas,” he said. “If you say, ‘I want a 100-acre site near London’, it just doesn’t exist.

“We haven’t got the land, we’re a small island, and the same [is true] of Frankfurt and Amsterdam, which is pushing people up towards the Nordics, for example, where there is cheaper power, green power, but then you’re not as close to your customers as you want to be. That all adds to the compromise, because there is no such thing as a perfect site,” he added.

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