Wales' Data Powerhouse | Next Generation Data | Blog

Listen up. The cloud isn’t in the sky, it’s in Newport!

By Simon Bearne 13 | September | 2019

NGD’s CEO Justin Jenkins features in BBC radio documentary hosted by Rory Cellan-Jones.

Now available on BBC iPlayer

In our super-connected, smartphone, app-enabled world it’s easy to overlook the mountains of data we’re all helping to generate directly or indirectly. Our collective data footprints are left everywhere, not just by the innumerable files and emails we produce day in day out, but from all those selfies, social posts, apps, online and streaming services we know and love. How and where all this gets stored and computed is hardly ever given a second thought.

This came across loud and clear in a BBC radio programme aired this week in which NGD features prominently. In Wales’ Data Powerhouse, the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones was taken on a guided tour of NGD’s giant data centre by CEO Justin Jenkins who explained that, contrary to popular public perception, data isn’t really stored as if by magic in some infinite data warehouse in the sky. In reality, it invariably winds up in locations altogether more down to earth: data centres such as NGD’s near Newport.

The last 20 years or so has seen an explosion in data generation as the world has become increasingly digitised, first with the mass adoption of the web and more recently with the evolution of cloud computing, helped along of course by the convenience of our handy, amazingly powerful smartphones, tablets and other personal devices. Data is a precious commodity and these days as vital as water - it makes the world go round.

How all that data is physically stored, processed and protected is where large, secure, powerful and highly energy efficient data centres like NGD come in, playing a vital role in keeping data safe and the digital economy running, 24/7/365. And there’s much more data on the way - The Internet of Things with its expected billions of interconnected devices, machines and sensors is only just getting started, so too AI-enabled applications for Machine Learning and Deep Learning in Industry, Medical/Healthcare and many other areas.

As Justin points out during the programme, with data volumes growing exponentially, they’re forecast by IDC to accelerate from last year’s 18 zettabytes to a massive 175 zettabytes by 2025. Apparently that’s enough DVDs to stretch around the globe 222 times. If further quantification is desired, a zettabyte is 1,000 exabytes and one exabyte is 1,000 petabytes, which in turn means one petabyte is 1,000 terabytes. And just one of those is 1,000 gigabytes. It’s staggering when you consider around 20 years ago a mere 500 megabytes PC hard drive (only half a gigabyte) was pretty impressive!   

During the radio programme Rory also raises potential concerns over energy consumption when it comes to powering data centres. Justin highlights how from the outset NGD has been fully committed to making data processing and storage as efficient as possible, citing NGD’s 100 percent renewably sourced power credentials ever since 2010, the first data centre in Europe to take this initiative; its continuous reviews of energy sourcing with power suppliers and future zero carbon supply opportunities; and in 2014 the first data centre to comply with the UK Government’s Climate Change Agreement scheme.

To hear the entire interview with Justin and more on what it takes to run an efficient data centre, catch up with Wales’ Data Powerhouse on BBC Radio Wales. Follow the link https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000878h.