The physical location of a business holds less importance than it used to thanks to the rapid advancement of modern technology.
However, this is obviously not the case for data centres as they still need to consider several critical aspects when choosing locations.
A new release from multi-disciplined UK property consultants Bidwells delves into the data centre market within the United Kingdom and determines just where the hot spots are for data centre development.
At a convenience level, it’s important for data centres to enable businesses easy access to their servers for maintenance or upgrades, while proximity to staff and clients is also critical.
Furthermore, with colocation services, businesses retain ownership of all their hardware and software, therefore it is important to have good transport links to and from the data centre.
At an infrastructure level, it’s no surprise that data centres require plenty of space in which to operate, particularly if clients decide to expand their business.
Another obvious consideration is energy consumption. Data centre energy consumption is expected to reach 140 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020 – equivalent to 50 power plants – according to research by NRDC.
That being said, data centre operators are increasingly looking into locations that can facilitate green energy and renewable resources like solar, wind and tidal power as alternatives to sustain operations.
Bidwells says the demand for data centres in the UK at the moment is high, with some of the most popular areas including:
Surprise surprise, the capital comes out on top as Bidwell says there are 71 data centres in the city. Some of the main drivers include its proximity to digital businesses and excellent transport links, as well as some of the best colleges and universities being located in the city which gives data centres easy access to highly skilled graduates.
The city has rapidly become something of a technology hub and Bidwells says data centre providers are keenly aware of its potential. Demand is being driven by the government’s Tech North start-up initiative in the city, as well as Manchester hosting some of the country’s fastest Internet speeds. The city also benefits from access to individuals from some of the best universities and IT colleges.
Bidwells says Berkshire’s sheer proximity to London and business parks like Thames Valley Park and Arlington Business Park is one of its main benefits. It’s also much more affordable than central London with major tech companies being set up in the Slough and Reading region, providing easy access to potential clients.
While data centres can be found all over the country, Bidwells says other hotspots worth mentioning include Birmingham, Newcastle and North Wales.
To get an idea of the international market, here's a list of the top ten UK colocation ecosystems released from Cloudscene in 2017:
Despite the list being dominated by the United States, Bidwells says it’s encouraging to see London on top of the list as it paves the way for cities like Manchester and Berkshire to follow in its footsteps
The report from Bidwells also looked into the growing debate – should data centres go city or rural?
The strongest argument for rural areas is cost savings, sheer space, and often better access to renewable power sources, however there are factors that they may not be able to provide like fast and efficient Internet connectivity, accessibility, convenience, and security.
Bidwells says with many companies moving towards the use of tech advancements like the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, data exchanges will increasingly need powerful connectivity and energy sources – something that out-of-town centres may not be able to provide.
While staff access can be permitted remotely, the real concern is an emergency that requires IT staff to be on-site within minutes, and if your data centre is in a remote location then gaining fast access in times of need could be tedious.
The same goes for deliveries of new hardware or equipment that could take longer to reach rural locations than in the city.
So there are pros and cons to each side of the coin, but Bidwells says data centre production in rural areas could certainly benefit local economies in some cases.
With data centre production and expansion comes lots of jobs, albeit temporary, in the construction, manufacturing and engineering fields. However, data centres do not require a large staff on a daily basis, making long-term employment in these areas unlikely.
Instances have occurred where one major data centre has inspired the growth of more companies in the area, with Bidwells using the example of Prineville in Oregon where Facebook built its data centre and was soon followed by an Apple data centre.