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Top 10 datacentre stories of 2017

Over the course of 2017, we saw hyperscale cloud giants continuing to invest in their UK presence, as well as Apple’s ongoing planning permission delays in Ireland and the disruption caused by the datacentre downtime from British Airways

Much of the datacentre news landscape in 2017 centred on the activities of the hyperscale cloud giants, as they rush to build out their facilities in response to the growing demand for their services worldwide.

It is this trend that saw Norway and Sweden ramp up their efforts to position their respective countries as a good economic fit for firms that need to rapidly expand their capacity, while remaining mindful of the environmental implications of their growth.

Some of the stories also mark a continuation of some of the trends seen in the datacentre sector over the course of 2016, with the hyperscale cloud giants continuing to invest in building out their UK presence, and – in turn – fuelling demand for colocation capacity in the capital.

Ireland’s position as a burgeoning datacentre hub also continued to gather momentum this year, despite the ongoing delays Apple and (to a lesser extent) Amazon are facing with securing planning permission for their respective builds in the country.

With all this in mind, we take a look back over 10 of the biggest datacentre stories of 2017.

1) The British Airways Bank Holiday datacentre disaster

While datacentre downtime remains an all too common problem in the IT world, few incidents caused as much disruption as the two-day outage suffered by British Airways over the May 2017 Bank Holiday weekend.

The problems, linked to a power supply failure in one of the airline’s local Heathrow datacentres, are said to have affected around 75,000 passengers, as British Airways was forced to cancel numerous flights as the IT systems underpinning its check-in, baggage handling, booking and contact centres all crashed.

2) Upset in Athenry: Apple’s Irish datacentre plans beset by delays

The ongoing saga over whether or not Apple should be granted permission to build a datacentre in Athenry, County Galway, has shown no signs of reaching a resolution this year, as the objectors to the project explore every legal avenue available to them to protest against the project.

At the time of writing, supporters of the project remain fearful that Apple may choose to pull the plug on the build altogether, as a result of the continued delays.

Meanwhile, the Irish government vowed earlier this year to explore the possibility of reforming the country’s planning laws to prevent other technology giants running into difficulties when seeking to build out their datacentre presence in Ireland.

3) Norwegian startup shares plans to build world’s biggest datacentre

Startup Kolos went public in August 2017 with auspicious plans to build a four-storey, 600,000m2 datacentre in the Norwegian town of Ballangen that it claims – on completion – will be the biggest server farm in the world.

The facility will draw on the region’s sizeable supply of hydropower to run, and construction is due to begin in 2018, with the company pitching the site as a potential colocation hub for environmentally conscious organisations.

4)  Stockholm launches bid to become green datacentre hub

While some focused on building the biggest datacentres in the world, the city of Stockholm set its sights on creating a renewably powered datacentre hub where the waste heat generated by the facilities located there will be used to heat nearby homes.

The Stockholm Data Parks team overseeing the project have already secured a couple of anchor tenants, and – with the city offering tax breaks to datacentre operators – is intent on adding the great and good of the hyperscale community to their number.

5) Google opens UK datacentre

Several months after Microsoft and Amazon went live with their UK datacentres, search giant Google entered the fray in July 2017, promising users low-latency connections to locally hosted versions of its core cloud infrastructure and analytics products.

The London launch marked a continuation of Google’s efforts to increase the enterprise-readiness of its cloud platforms, and the region is one of eight the firm vowed to bring online this year.

6) British Gas floats demand generation notion to datacentre sector

The datacentre industry’s energy usage patterns are under constant scrutiny, but the backup fuel supplies many operators have stowed away have clearly caught the eye of utility providers, including British Gas.

The company set out its vision – in February 2017 – to get some of the UK’s biggest energy users (with the datacentre community among them) to consider making greater use of their on-site, backup power supplies to reduce their reliance (at peak times) on the National Grid.

The idea prompted a sizeable amount of industry debate, with many market watchers querying how willing the traditionally risk-adverse datacentre community would be to handover access to their backup generators, regardless of how good for the environment the move may be.

7) London colocation demand holds firm in the face of Brexit

The outcome of the June 2016 European Referendum vote prompted a lot of speculation from tech industry watchers about how the decision to exit the European Union (EU) will affect demand for UK-based datacentre space in the years to come.

According to CBRE’s 2017 series of quarterly assessment of how demand for colocation is faring in London, all the signs seem to suggest the prospect of Brexit is not causing demand for datacentre space in the capital to soften.

So much so, the organisation’s third quarter report predicts 2017 will be a record year in London for datacentre take-up, as the hyperscale community’s appetite for UK-based sites shows no signs of abating.

8) HPE, Dell and IBM server sales hit by rising demand whitebox server-based clouds

Many of the so-called legacy hardware giants have seen their financial results adversely affected by enterprises moving away from running their own private datacentres, and lifting and shifting their applications and IT workloads to the cloud.

Others have seen the trend benefit their bottom line, as their technologies are being keenly adopted by the hyperscale cloud community as they race to kit out their public cloud datacentres and ensure they have sufficient capacity to meet enterprise demand.

The white-box server supplier community has emerged as a major beneficiary of this trend in 2017, with analyst reports suggesting sales of ODM kit are eating into the revenues of some of the more established industry players.

This trend is being attributed to hyperscale cloud suppliers opting for custom-built, ODM-produced hardware in their datacentres for cost, performance and agility reasons, rather than off-the-shelf kit from the major tier-one suppliers.

9) Facebook on course to open 10th datacentre by 2019

Facebook is an example of a hyperscaler who is working to rapidly build out its datacentre presence across the world, revealing plans in August this year to open its tenth datacentre by 2019.

The social media giant is an example of an organisation who has opted out of using the technologies on offer from tier one suppliers, and is instead championing the use of the 21-inch servers offered by the Open Compute Project (OCP) for performance, cost and interoperability purposes.

10) LinkedIn-backed open source datacentre hardware push gathers pace

Further details about the LinkedIn-backed bid to increase the adoption of open source technologies in the datacentre via its Open19 initiative emerged in May 2017.

Unlike OCP, Open19 is championing the use of industry-standard 19-inch server racks, prompting industry watchers to predict the endeavour may have better success with encouraging enterprise datacentre operators to join the open datacentre hardware bandwagon.

Read more on Clustering for high availability and HPC

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