During the summer I was driving around Cork, rushing between meetings, and a crazy thought struck me. Nevermind Ireland’s pitch to be the ‘internet capital of Europe’, it is already the home of cloud computing in many ways.
You see, most of the moving parts that make the global cloud already exist in Ireland in the form of data centres, the software, the intelligence and the creativity.
A decade ago, these data centres were considered an embarrassing reminder of the dot.com downturn. Today they are a set of assets keeping the country ripe for investment.
Dublin is home to at least 22 legacy data centres, not to mention new ones, such as the $1bn data centre built last year by Microsoft in its third investment in Dublin in 18 months and European data centre giant Interxion, which is pumping €7.1m into its DUB 2 Data Centre, employing 70 construction workers to complete the expansion.
During the summer, Irish data centre provider Data Electronics was bought by TeleCityEurope for €100m and earlier this year global internet giant Amazon bought a 22,539 sq-metre facility at Greenhills Industrial Estate in Dublin 24 to expand its cloud footprint in Europe. In September, Google revealed it will invest €75m in a new data centre that will generate 30 full-time and 200 construction jobs.
"A decade ago you could have said Ireland had an oversupply of data centres," explains Interxion Ireland CEO Tanya Duncan. "But by 2005 the market began to grow really fast and now there is significant demand from Irish companies and multinationals for data-centre capacity.
"For us, demand has been significant enough to make the case for expansion.
"Ireland is a gateway for US firms coming to Europe. Eight of the top 10 technology companies in the world have significant operations here. We’re not talking about call centres but considerable IT infrastructure and we as an island have the infrastructure and the people to make these deployments happen. The key is to have the connectivity to make these pieces join up."
Dark fibre network rollout
In 2012, an integral aspect of joining up these pieces will be the rollout of a nationwide dark fibre network by PiPiper infrastructure, which will generate 277 new jobs.
But this isn’t just about data centres and the transatlantic fibre cables that are soon coming ashore via Hibernia Atlantic, Emerald Networks and the UK-Ireland fibre laid just last week by Sea Fibre Networks, which will double data capacity across the Irish Sea.
The cloud revolution as we know it is a natural progression of computing from client/server to network-centric computing and Ireland has been at the cusp of this revolution ever since Apple came to Cork in the 1980s and Intel began making chips to power the PC revolution in the 1990s.
In recent weeks, Kinsale-based Avego managing director, SOSventures founder and new RTÉ ‘Dragon’ Sean O’Sullivan was recognised by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Technology Review as being the co-creator – along with George Favaloro – of the term ‘cloud computing’ and being an early proponent of the development of cloud computing.
In 1996, O’Sullivan’s company, NetCentric, was a leader in providing "software for inside the internet", and Compaq Computer’s Favaloro invested $5m in the idea to develop the industry of software providers for internet infrastructure.
In Cork, for example, EMC employs 2,500 people making the storage technologies to handle the vast volumes of data being created every day in businesses and by individuals using social networks and e-commerce.
This year, EMC created the tech industry’s first cloud computing master’s degree in collaboration with Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).
Jobs on offer
EMC’s sister company VMware announced 250 new cloud computing jobs in Cork, in addition to cloud computing jobs being created by Ammeon, Asystec, Marketo, Commence, Pivot, Engine Yard, Pinger, Datapac, Fort and Citrix, to name but a few.
Dell expects to recruit 150 people in the next two years with the creation of its first Cloud Research and Development (R&D) Centre in Dublin and its first Dell Solution Centre built globally in Limerick.
HP in Galway announced 155 jobs at its Cloud Services Centre in Galway and was able to identify 500 suitable candidates within weeks.
From the data centres to the software and the chips, Ireland has played a valuable role in laying the groundwork for the cloud computing revolution over the past 30 years.
From its location at the edge of Europe and the last landfall between Europe’s financial centres and Wall Street, Ireland has a pivotal role to play in the next evolution of the data-driven economy and has an opportunity to cement its reputation as ‘the home of the cloud’.