Maurice Mortell interview: data centres are the heart of the digital economy (video)

15 Apr 2013

TelecityGroup Ireland managing director Maurice Mortell

TelecityGroup Ireland managing director Maurice Mortell says data centres have become the heart of the digital ecosystem, with vital interconnects between various telcos, cloud providers and ISPs serving as the arteries of a living and growing network-centric economy.

Across Dublin there are as many as 30 giant data centres that are the engine rooms of global e-commerce and are part of the fabric of the cloud of computing resources that the world’s 2bn internet users (and growing) will depend upon. They belong to players like Amazon, Yahoo!, Vodafone and many other technology brands.

TelecityGroup Ireland operates three carrier-neutral data centres in Dublin, with a combined capacity of more than 5,000 sq metres and 5MW of customer available power.

In Clondalkin, Dublin, where TelecityGroup operates one of its major data centres, the neighbouring data centre community consists of Microsoft, Google and Digital Realty Trust. Next door to TelecityGroup, Microsoft maintains its US$640m data centre and next door to that rival Google has invested US$75m in a new energy-efficient data centre on 11 acres of land. Another major data centre giant, Digital Realty Trust, has acquired a 10-acre site to build a 193,000 sq-foot data centre.

TelecityGroup acquired Irish data centre group Data Electronics in August 2011 for €100m.

Last month, the company’s Dublin data centres achieved the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which has been developed by the world’s major credit card providers.

Engine rooms of the digital economy

According to Mortell, the early insistence by telcos to install interconnects inside data centres to enable them to easily switch between one another for capacity has become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, enabling the digital economy to function.

“We’ve seen in the last 10 years a seismic shift in the delivery of technology and services, so effectively the data centre is the heart or hub of how services are delivered. It used to be traditional IT outsourcing and using data centres, but now we are accessing services within the data centre externally and internally – cloud service providers, telecoms service providers, ISPs, financial services, systems integrators, internet content.”

As an example, Mortell said that between the three Dublin data centres there are at least 4,500 interconnects linking telecoms and ISPs, as well as various cloud service providers.

“The businesses that come in want to get access to the carriers and the systems integrators, and as a result the interconnects start to develop and grow.

“At a micro level it becomes its own digital ecosystem and we’re seeing that across all sites in Europe. When a site gets to five or six years old with a critical mass of 50 or 60pc of the site full, once you have the right mix of clients, it starts to support itself and grow organically.”

Across Europe, TelecityGroup has more than 36 data centres and the interconnect capacity inside these data centres is growing rapidly.

In this regard, interconnects, which would have been just par for the course in recent years, are now vital building blocks for growth.

Mortell says Ireland’s ambient climate, its low corporate tax rate, R&D tax credits and fundamentally its young workforce are serving as key enablers for the digital economy.

“There are some US$190bn invested in Ireland and the companies are comfortable doing business here, we are the most open economy in the world.”

However, Mortell says energy prices in Ireland still need to come down and service providers controversially increased service charges in recent months.

“In terms of energy prices, Ireland is at the top in terms of cost per kilowatt, we need to be careful not to price ourselves out of that arena.”

Maurice Mortell will be a panelist at the upcoming Digital Ireland Forum which takes place in Dublin’s Convention Centre at 8am on Friday, 19 April. For further information or to book your place, visit the event site.

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