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Apple cancels plans to build second European datacentre in Denmark

The consumer electronics giant plans to focus its efforts on expanding its soon-to-be completed datacentre in Denmark, rather than invest in standing up a second facility in the country

Apple continues to curtail its European datacentre expansion plans, having backed out of building a second server farm in Denmark two years after first announcing the project.

The consumer electronics giant confirmed in a statement to Computer Weekly that it is no longer pressing ahead with its $921m plans to build a renewably powered datacentre in Aabenraa in southern Denmark, which was due to go live during the second quarter of 2019.

It is unclear how close to completion the project was before Apple pulled the plug, but its statement suggests it has decided against building a second facility in favour of expanding the capacity of its other Danish datacentre in Viborg.

“As we near completion of our new Viborg datacentre in central Jutland, Denmark, we’ve decided to focus on growing that site instead of building an additional datacentre in Aabanraa,” the statement reads.

“We are grateful for the strong support we received from both the local council and community in Aabenraa. Like all of our datacentres, our Viborg centre will run on 100% renewable energy using power from two new renewable projects we are developing locally and we look forward to continuing to invest and grow our business in Denmark.”

As previously reported by Computer Weekly, the Viborg project has run into some difficulties of its own in the past, which have seen its go-live date pushed back several times from September 2018 to April 2019. At the time of writing, it was still unclear when this site would finally be up and running.

The mayor of Aabenraa, Thomas Andresen, revealed in a statement on the local municipality’s website that Apple broke the news of the project’s cancellation during a short phone call, and reportedly explained it away as a “business decision”.

Either way, the municipality said it was hopeful another datacentre operator would take over the 285-hectare site, and that it was in “continuous contact” with other third-party organisations interested in acquiring the site from Apple.

“This is undoubtedly an undesirable bump on the way for Aabenraa Municipality’s long-term efforts to create jobs … out of the establishment of datacentres in Aabenraa Municipality,” he said, in the statement.

“Fortunately, Apple is not the only player in that market, and … we have a targeted strategic effort aimed at, among other things, two datacentres in operation and two in planning in 2022. We still work hard to [achieve that], although Apple’s unexpected message probably risks delaying us.”

The Viborg facility is one of a number of datacentres Apple is looking to bring online outside of the US in due course, as it also has two server farms under development in China as well.

However, when the Viborg facility was first announced in 2015 it was in conjunction with a commitment to build another facility in Athenry, County Galway, in Ireland.

The latter project was beset with planning disputes and legal issues that prevented Apple from making any kind of headway on its construction, prompting it to call time on the project in May 2018.

At the time of writing, Apple is understood to still own the site in Athenry, which has given hope to locals in the area that it may either backtrack on its earlier plans to abandon the build or plan to sell it on to another hyperscale datacentre operator.

The datacentres were pitched as a means of enabling Apple to provide locally hosted access to its services for its European customers, while the Denmark site selection is in keeping with its efforts to ramp up the amount of renewable energy it uses to power its operations.

However, it remains to be seen how the company intends to compensate for the cancellation of these two sizeable datacentre projects, aside from expanding the Viborg facility.

That said, reports earlier this year suggest Apple is something of a power user when it comes to using Amazon Web Services (AWS), with the firm drawing on the cloud giant’s services to host its portfolio of consumer-facing products.

As reported by Computer Weekly at the time, it is claimed Apple has made a five-year commitment to spend at least $1.5bn with AWS, and that the amount it spent on its services was up by 10% in the first quarter of 2019 compared with the previous year.

Read more about Apple’s datacentre expansion plans

Read more on Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

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