Bryan Hickson, Client Solutions Executive IBM Ireland

Maintaining a competitive advantage

Ireland is a highly attractive location for hosting digital content for international companies with plans to serve European markets.  That’s according to global research organisation, Agency 451 in an independently commissioned report from October 2013, which looks at all aspects of Ireland’s strategy for hosting and managing digital assets. 

And if we needed any further evidence of our growing position as a European data centre heavyweight, we need look no further than Yahoo’s recent announcement to relocate its European website services to data centres in Ireland, citing “extensive data center infrastructure that helps us serve our EMEA users in the most efficient way” as a key factor in the decision.

Yahoo joins an exclusive club of industry giants such as Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft, who have already taken the step of locating a significant data centre presence here.

But indigenous data centre providers are also getting in on the act with Carlow-based Blacknight recently announcing the launch of its new eco-friendly facility following a €1 million investment.  The company has over 70,000 direct clients and hosts approximately 220,000 websites on behalf of its customers in 130 countries.

While there’s no doubt Ireland Inc. serves as a well-connected gateway to Europe facilitating hosting, cloud computing and big data, there are challenges looming on the horizon.  Chief among them is the availability of power, according to Bryan Hickson, client solutions executive with IBM Ireland.

“The demand for power is something that has to be addressed in the near term particularly if we are to remain competitive,” he says.

“Because of increasing server density we’re using a lot less space but a lot more power.  We can now get up to 200 servers in one rack and in each of those servers you have 10 or 12 machines, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to have 1000 servers running in one rack space.  And if you look at this from a redundancy perspective, you’ve got to get that power in twice. We even have instances of where we’re running 16 – 20 KW in one rack.”

Hickson believes that infrastructure investment is imperative, despite IBM Ireland’s status as one of the “few sites in Ireland with dual power feeds from the national grid”.

“It doesn’t make any difference whether the lines are over ground or underground, the lines have to be there and it’s incredibly important that we diversify how we get power to the data centres. We’ve got to have multiple ways rather than single layers.”

Closely connected to power is the issue of connectivity.

Ireland has seen a sustained period of network investment, lauded by ComReg chairman, Kevin O’Brien in his most recent market assessment and universally welcomed by business, government and industrial agencies charged with attracting investment to these shores.

In-country connectivity has improved to the point that 32.5 per cent of all fixed broadband subscriptions were equal to or greater than 30Mbps at the end of September 2013, up from 19.9 per cent in the same period in 2012.  And out-of-country connectivity has also seen major investment.  For example, Emerald Networks’ new-build submarine cable system, the largest low-latency network across the Atlantic linking New York to Ireland is scheduled to be service-ready by mid-2014.

“We can offer one and two millisecond latency out of Ireland to the UK and the rest of Europe,” said Enda Doyle, director of cloud computing and managed services with Eircom.  “Can I operate out of an island in Europe as if I’m next door to the bank in London or Frankfurt?  I can and it makes no difference where the data is sitting.

“There will always be a need to keep expanding and growing.  But fibre technology is always improving and the amount of fibre that’s in the ground or under the sea is increasing and it’s just a matter of staying ahead of the curve,” he said.”

Continued network investment is a point strongly supported by Tanya Duncan, managing director of carrier-neutral data centre, Interxion.

“The links we have are more than adequate but the investment has to continue.  The way data is being consumed, the levels of bandwidth being consumed is just phenomenal as is the rate and pace of growth. The trends we see in terms of content, distribution and consumption means the connectivity piece has to be exceptionally robust and plentiful so continued investment is a must,” she said.

“The importance of high speed broadband/fibre connectivity cannot be overstated,” according to Geoffrey McGowan, head of pre-sales with independent IT services provider, Comsys.

“We are finding it is one of the most important factors in adoption of cloud computing principles. Tenants require a fast and reliable internet connection.  We feel that Ireland needs to make an Ireland-centric network investment,” he said.

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