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Floppy to Fibre: 20 Years of Irish Data Leadership

Ireland: the largest exporter of software in the world

In March 2000, Ireland was announced as the largest software exporter in the world by the Organisation for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD). The preceding decades saw Dublin become a centre of excellence as a global hub for software localisation. Technologies were trialled, standards defined, milestones achieved and the expertise of the Irish workforce was second to none.

As the market transitioned from floppy disks to fibre over the next two decades, the strength of that foundation laid the groundwork for the data centre market we see today.

Exporting through fibre not freight

Twenty years later, Ireland has the largest cluster of data centres in Europe. The critical infrastructure found in the Metro Dublin Area acts as a foundation for Foreign Direct Investment in the ICT industry in Ireland. It is by far our largest service export at €86 billion per year and underwrites almost 115,000 ICT jobs in Ireland. The last quarter of 2019 saw the market stabilise at 3% growth with 658MW of operational data centres. Hyperscalers remain the dominant data centre type, with 73% of capacity, but the colocation wholesale market has grown from almost zero to 12% in the past 3 years.

Continued success = decarbonising the Grid

In order for Ireland to maintain its leading status as Tier 1 hosting location over the next decade, the decarbonisation of the grid as set out by the Government, Eirgrid and IWEA will play a critical role. The Irish national grid has a set target of 70% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030. This target not only looks feasible, but likely to be exceeded sooner than expected when you take into account the wind generation power records that have been repeatedly broken in early 2020. Wind farms have recorded max wind output of 4,137MW and set new daily generation records of 71% of electricity needs met by wind. In addition, coal produced power was not been called upon for the first seven weeks of the year.

Bold New Steps

Whilst the tech giants - Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon - were the world's biggest buyers of renewable electricity in 2019, in January, Microsoft looked to set the gold standard by pledging to be carbon neutral by 2025 and carbon negative by 2030. The company took a bold step in taking responsibility for the Scope 1, 2 and 3 sources of their emissions. No other company has gone to this length to cover their direct, consequential and supply chain emissions.

Foundation for Success

As we embark on a new decade, we have a chance to reflect on the past, the future and how the industry is evolving. Ireland’s role as a centre of excellence for all things data, both data resting here and the exporting of the design, build and operation of the centres themselves, carries forward the legacy of our ICT history and pedigree. Take a bow, Ireland. You have been brave, creative and relentless over the past twenty years to maintain your rightful place as a leader for all things data. Whilst the challenges will be different over the next twenty, a foundation of success has been set and we look forward to what’s to come next.

Garry Connolly Host In Ireland - President & Founder



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