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Top 10 datacentre stories of 2019

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 datacentre stories of 2019

The demand from the hyperscale cloud and internet companies for colocation capacity continued to cast a long shadow over the datacentre sector in 2019, and served to ensure a number of the trends that have influenced the news cycle in previous years continued to play out.

As such, 2019 saw more mergers and acquisitions take place in the sector, as operators sought to quickly add new datacentre sites to their portfolios in response, while others reworked their investment strategies to ensure they have sufficient financial resources to build their own.

All the same, concerns continue to abound about how sustainable the current record levels of growth being seen within the European colocation market are from an economic, environmental, space and power perspective.

With all this in mind, here’s a look back over Computer Weekly’s top 10 datacentre stories of 2019.

1) Digital Realty and Interxion embark on $8.4bn colocation mega-merger

Mergers and acquisitions are a common occurrence in the colocation sector, but the size and scale of the deals being struck have become markedly smaller of late, until news of the Digital Realty and Interxion acquisition dropped in October 2019.

The $8.4bn acquisition is on course to become the largest acquisition in datacentre history, with both firms hoping to draw on the geographic strength of each other’s datacentre portfolios to meet the colocation requirements of multinational hyperscale firms and enterprises around the world.

2) Equinix launches $1bn joint venture to secure more European hyperscale colocation spend

While its rivals set about acquiring each other, colocation market leader Equinix struck up a $1bn partnership with a Singapore-based investment fund to position it so it can directly court the hyperscale market through the creation of tailor-made datacentres for them in Europe.

And, if this joint venture proves successful, the firm has plans to cultivate similar partnerships in other parts of the world in due course.

3) Legal & General Capital ploughs investment into Kao Data’s Essex-based datacentre campus

Kao Data’s entrance on to the UK colocation scene has ruffled a number of feathers in recent years, given the rarity with which wholesale-only colocation players crop up, but it is a proposition that is working well for the firm, particularly when it comes to attracting investor interest.

In February 2019, it emerged that Legal and General had taken a 50% stake in the firm to fuel the further expansion of its hyperscale campus in Harlow, Essex, which – it claims – has clients flocking to it from Europe, the US and the Far East too.  

4) Assessing the aftermath of Apple’s abortive effort to build its Irish datacentre

Apple’s abortive bid to build a datacentre campus of its own in Athenry, County Galway, has provided Computer Weekly with a rich vein of stories in recent years, but news that the firm was finally putting the site up for sale seems to suggest the end of the story is now approaching.

Speculation has been rife about who might be interested in buying it, considering all the legal wrangling Apple encountered while trying to get its build over the line, but – at the time of writing – the site remains unsold.

5) Ireland’s power network needs €9bn investment by 2027 to sustain datacentre sector

At the same time, though, demand for colocation capacity in Ireland as a whole has continued to go from strength-to-strength in recent years, prompting concerns about the pressure all this growth is putting on the country’s national grid and the security of its power supplies.

This, in turn, led to a stark warning being issued in August 2019 by the Irish Academy of Engineering that Ireland’s power networks and infrastructure will require €9bn in investment between now and 2027 to cope with the demand for power coming from its burgeoning datacentre community.

6) Unpicking the datacentre industry’s complicated relationship with climate change

Concerns about the sector’s sustainability also came from other quarters, too, with various datacentre industry watchers adding to the discourse this year about the environmental friendliness of its activities, and how this might contribute to climate change.

At the same time, however, concerns about how at risk the sector could potentially be to the after-effects of climate change have also been widely debated this year, in the wake of reports from all over the world about datacentres being taken offline by freak weather events.

7)  Record-breaking colocation take-up across Europe prompts renewed space availability concerns

There were also fresh concerns raised this year about the growing scarcity within Europe of suitable sites to build datacentres, as a direct consequence of how quickly the colocation market is growing in response to the demands for capacity from the hyperscale community.

These were aired in response to the prediction made by real estate consultancy CBRE, that 2019 is on course to become another record-breaking year for the European colocation market in take-up terms, but operators may face having to pay a premium for sites because of availability problems.

8) Amsterdam new-build datacentre ban is not an ‘attack’ on operators, says government

Concerns about the lack of suitable datacentre sites were compounded further by the news that one of the major European colocation hubs has seen fit to impose a temporary ban on new-build datacentres in certain parts of the city because of power supply concerns.

The ban has sparked outrage in the region, with the government intent on keeping the ban in place until a new policy is drawn up that ensure that any future builds are embarked upon in a safe and sustainable way.

9) LinkedIn commits to multiyear, all-in move to Microsoft Azure

After years of actively contributing to initiatives geared towards shaping the way future datacentres should be built, professional social networking site LinkedIn announced plans in July 2019 to shutter its server farms, and move all its workloads instead to the Microsoft Azure public cloud.

On the one hand, the move could be considered inevitable, given Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn, but the news came as a shock to some, given how – up until relatively recently – the firm had talked of its plans to remain within its own datacentres for a long time to come.

10) Blackout after Brexit: UK datacentres brace for post-EU power supply and cost changes

As various deadlines pertaining to the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) have come and gone this year, the uncertainty about the impact Brexit might have on the datacentre sector has continued, prompting TechUK and others to try to bring some clarity to the discussions.

Particularly to matters of data sovereignty, power availability, and how exiting the EU might affect energy costs, which remain the largest outgoing for datacentre operators of all sizes.

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