Major stg£80m data centre planned for Belfast’s Titanic Quarter

8 Jul 2011

A new stg£80m data centre project is to open next year in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter aimed at making that area of the city one of Europe’s leading financial hubs. Some 40 full-time jobs will be created, as well as jobs for 125 construction workers.

The centre, being developed by Data City Exchange (DCE), is expected to open next year, providing data storage services for a range of high street banks, blue-chip financial services firms, media companies, software providers and internet businesses.

‘DCE Titanic Exchange’ will be the first in a network of new data centres planned by DCE and will be a major boost to Titanic Quarter’s Phase II financial services centre, which received planning permission at the end of last year. Phase I is already occupied by Citi Group.

“Across the UK, the financial services sector has started to recover strongly from the credit crunch crisis and investors are looking to spread their activities outside London, from both a cost and disaster recovery perspective,” Mike Smith, Titanic Quarter Ltd’s CEO, said.

“Belfast scores highly in both regards and the open user, carrier neutral communications infrastructure at Titanic Quarter offers a highly flexible, cost-effective solution.”

Titanic Quarter to house one of the world’s greenest data centres

The exchange will be one of the world’s greenest data centres, with a sub-1.08 PUE rating, an important consideration for US firms which are obliged to meet stringent environmental targets. It will use up to 70pc less energy than traditional data centres due to DCE’s innovative purpose built design, free air cooling and use of renewable energy sources and carbon footprint reduction technologies.

DCE Titanic Exchange will initially provide more than 1,050 racks of capacity, the equivalent of 11 standard data centres. A further 1,600 racks are planned for a Phase II development due to open in 2013. The centre will create 125 construction jobs and up to 40 full-time positions upon completion.

Currently, most of the UK’s data centres are based in the southeast of England in close proximity to London, but increasing demand for electronic information storage and a need to diversify the present geographic concentration of centres has created strong interest in regional centres, such as Belfast.

Other DCE data centres are planned for Dublin, Wirral, Sheffield, Bristol and Newcastle, and will provide an interconnected fibre network for customers. DCE also aims to locate data centres across Europe, east coast USA and Grand Bahama.

“Titanic Quarter is a key strategic location for DCE to host its next-generation data centre design, featuring our unique Evo-POD data centre modules,” said John Eland, managing director of DCE.

“Housed within a purpose-built superstructure, the centre will offer enhanced security and a ‘data centre within a data centre’ environment. It will also provide resilient, low-latency global fibre access for some of the world’s leading financial services firms, public sector and major corporate customers.

“The telecommunications infrastructure in Titanic Quarter is one of the most advanced in Europe. Northern Ireland’s direct fibre optic link to North America is a major draw for customers whose operations depend on their ability to access data on both sides of the Atlantic and Far East.

“As part of the DCE network, DCE Titanic Exchange will benefit from direct, high-speed connectivity to all other DCE locations, as well as global internet exchanges in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. Our aim is to enable Belfast and Northern Ireland as the next major European and Global Internet Exchange location.”

Architectural, technical and engineering consultancy for the project is being provided by global engineering and technical services giant URS Scott Wilson Ltd.

Purpose built data centres are in increasingly high demand due to strong growth in IT and data storage needs. This has been driven by growing business and consumer demand for ‘on-demand’ cloud-based services, such as multi-media streaming and content delivery, business disaster recovery and online banking. High availability storage and high-speed networks are also required to drive global financial transactions.

“This project is a solid endorsement of Northern Ireland’s strong telecommunications infrastructure and signals that private-sector developers, such as Data City Exchange, have the confidence to lead on creating next-generation ICT facilities in Belfast,” Northern Ireland Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster explained.

“This new data centre has the potential to create significant employment opportunities, leverage valuable private investment and support the further development of a strong knowledge-based economy in Northern Ireland.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years