In 1914 the Harrods Furniture Depository was completed on the banks of the Thames in leafy Barnes. It served as a warehouse for many years but in 2000 its conversion to 250 residential apartments was completed. With the penthouse flats selling for £6.5m it is easy to understand why such prime real-estate could no longer be wasted on warehousing.
In the last 20 years the majority of data centre development has used some of the most expensive real-estate in the UK. Given that data centres are the warehouses of the 21st century it seems obvious that such a situation is not economically sustainable.
Just as Harrod’s depository could move out of London as our nationwide road network improved along with falling transportation costs, so too have data centres - on paper at least - been set free to roam away from Docklands by plummeting fibre costs.
So given a blank sheet of paper where should a data centre locate? Close to reliable, high capacity power supplies, away from flood & fire risks – a location with plentiful cheap and clean land, close to transportation links but sufficiently far from threats of riot or terrorism. Of course connectivity is still required and a choice of at least 3 high quality carriers is essential.
Unfortunately in reality high capacity power supplies are generally located in areas of heavy industry which often have contaminated land and/or high risk neighbours. Undeveloped land is usually free for a reason, often flood related, and remote rural land will not have the necessary fibre availability.
So ticking all these boxes is not easy although there are already a few notable exceptions out there. While picking almost any data centre location will require some kind of a compromise on the above wish list, the fact that fibre costs and latency are now so low finally allows more UK out of town locations to be a valid option.
Sure back in 2000 when, for example, it cost £40,000 per annum for a 2Mb/s circuit between London and Wales – now it’s just £5! – and latency was a large barrier, out of necessity it made sense to cluster data centres around the carrier interconnects in London’s Docklands and The City. But now latency is practically the same between any two points unless it’s thousands of miles. Along the M4 Corridor, at 1.2 ms between London and Wales, it’s more than adequate for 99% of today’s applications. With 1600 Gbit/s fibre at just £10 per kilometre, it’s also cheap at the price.
In the end do you really care where your Harrod’s sofa was shipped from and would you expect to view it in person prior to delivery? Surely not, and by the same token thanks to cheap low cost fibre and excellent remote diagnostics, you no longer need to make the trip to hug your servers either – consider the playing field well and truly levelled!
About the author
Nick Razey is co-founder and CEO Next Generation Data, owner and operator of Europe’s largest data centre, NGD Europe. A Physics graduate, MBA holder and Chartered Engineer, Nick has over 25 years' experience in the telecoms industry including Cable & Wireless and as a founder of pan-European fibre network provider Interoute Telecommunications.