A perfect storm comprising Dublin’s data centre capacity and the fast-emerging worlds of the internet of things (IoT) and big data will make Dublin one of the world’s most important digital cities, Maurice Mortell, the head of global data centre giant Equinix’s Irish operations, has told Siliconrepublic.com.
Mortell’s views echo those of the head of Google in Ireland, Ronan Harris, who described Dublin recently as the “data capital of Europe.”
Equinix is a data centre behemoth with data centres on 145 sites in 40 markets on five continents.
‘I personally think we are on the cusp of a new wave of activity that we haven’t seen since the deregulation of the telecoms market’
– MAURICE MORTELL, EQUINIX
Mortell has steered a cluster of data centres in Dublin that originally began as Data Electronics, with origins as far back as 1976, until they were first acquired by Telecity Group for €100m in 2011. Earlier this year, Telecity Group itself was acquired by Equinix in a mega M&A deal worth $3.8bn.
Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com on the publication of a report that found that 60pc of Irish IT executives are in a state of confusion over new data regulations around the EU-US Privacy Shield, Mortell said that a boom in data will make Dublin one of the world’s pre-eminent digital cities.
“I personally think we are on the cusp of a new wave of activity that we haven’t seen since the deregulation of the telecoms market,” Mortell explained.
“If you look at the current footprint of data centres in Ireland – including Equinix, Digital Realty, Microsoft, Google and others – the footprint, the hyperscale, they have is unique in Europe and around the globe.
“The volume on our doorstep is significant. In particular, with the revolution in hybrid cloud, with so much infrastructure in our country we are in a position with capacity to drive growth.
“Dublin should be one of the most important digital cities,” Mortell said.
Europe’s data capital
‘In order for companies to do business, data has got to be able to flow across borders and businesses have to ensure that data is protected’
– MAURICE MORTELL, EQUINIX
There are up to 30 data centres across Dublin and, earlier this week, Amazon announced 500 new jobs primarily around data centre expertise.
In addition to this, Facebook is building a €200m data centre in Clonee, Co Meath, while Apple is building an €850m data centre in Athenry, Co Galway, that will be 100pc powered by renewable energy.
Equinix has data centres across four sites in Dublin. The latest data centre, DD4, is about to come online with new capacity as part of phase two of its build.
“It takes 18 months’ turnaround for new capacity and we are always keeping an eye on what we will build next,” Mortell said.
He said the Equinix acquisition of Telecity has given the long-running cluster of data centres he has managed in Dublin significant global reach and new layers of intelligence to support businesses moving to the hybrid cloud.
The Equinix data centres, known as international businesses exchanges (IBXs), are platform neutral, insofar as they can integrate securely with Microsoft’s Azure, Amazon’s AWS and the Google Cloud Platform, to name a few.
Uncertainty driven by Privacy Shield
However, while Dublin’s digital city ambitions escalate, Mortell warns that confusion reigns amongst IT leaders in indigenous companies over data regulations following the demise of Safe Harbour and the proposed new EU-US Privacy Shield.
A study by Equinix of senior IT decision-makers in Ireland found that 60pc of them are unsure about current data regulations.
However, reflecting Ireland’s data protection laws, just over 50pc of respondents said they are now more likely to seek an Irish data-hosting solution following the demise of Safe Harbour.
“In the case of this study we took an indigenous view of the world rather than a FDI (foreign direct investment) perspective,” Mortell said. “In order for companies to do business, data has got to be able to flow across borders and businesses have to ensure that data is protected.
“But in light of the new regulations, we also need to make sure there isn’t any lack of transparency around what businesses can or can’t do with data.
“I don’t believe Privacy Shield addresses those issues,” Mortell said.
“It is important from our point of view that the regulations are robust enough,” he said, echoing views voiced this week by the European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli.
“The Pandora’s box on data protection has been opened and more and more people are acutely aware of the issue.
“But this is an issue that businesses have to be comfortable with. You can’t stop businesses from doing business, but they have to be sure about what they are doing.
“When you bring this back to the data centre, it is important from our point of view that the regulations are robust and there is clarity. This is vital if Ireland is going to be seen as a place to host much of the world’s data.”
Dublin at dusk image via Shutterstock