The Friday Interview: Stephen McCarron, Hosting 365

14 Mar 2008

Home-grown data centre firm Hosting 365 is to create 20 new jobs as part of a €2m expansion. Stephen McCarron (pictured) is the company’s chief executive.

One data centre alone uses as much electricity as a small Irish town. Aren’t data centres having a negative impact on the environment?
Very much so. I think it’s only a matter of time before something statutory is put in place around the carbon footprint of IT.

Data centres are huge consumers of power. Some are heading into the territory of 10Mw or 20Mw. Microsoft’s next-generation data centre at Grange Castle would consume 35Mw of power. We would be small by comparison, using only 2Mw of power.

You’re investing millions in a new infrastructure. Is this risky given the current economic climate?
A year ago we took a risky outlook on what is required and we decided to build a cloud platform that uses HP blade servers and VMware virtualisation technology. We had the idea that hosted services can be delivered entirely across a virtualised environment, but bespoke for each customer.

It cost us €2m to build the high-end, carrier-grade infrastructure because it required increased processing power and data storage.

Is it true that virtualisation – spreading business processes across a number of servers – can help data centre businesses reduce their carbon footprint?
Virtualisation allows us to spread business applications across a number of servers rather than the old-fashioned way of one server for HR and another for accounts or email. It effectively allows us to put server technology into 60sq ft of space that traditionally would have demanded 6,000sq ft.

As a result of the virtualisation software we can get an 85pc utilisation of available servers at any one time, whereas in the past it was a 10pc utilisation.

Do eco-aware, Irish-based firms know of the technology and the benefits of hosting mission-critical data externally?
It’s not just the environment but getting better use of your infrastructure. There is increasing awareness and also local organisations.

For example, the Department of Social Welfare may see a 10pc utilisation of its web servers during the year but right after Budget Day it could jump to 100pc.

The department can upscale their server requirements in line with demand without having to panic.

What trends are driving the future of hosting and data centre services?
There is already a massive move in the direction of software as a service (SaaS) where firms like Microsoft, and SAP are providing business software over the internet to firms who would rather pay a subscription than spend thousands on licences.

An emerging trend we’re keen to capitalise on is the growing market for hardware as a service (HaaS) which allows customers like Carphone Warehouse and CityJet to subscribe for the use of servers externally rather than try to manage them in-house themselves.

By John Kennedy