Updated: Nov 9, 2020
Few people know much about data centres, but many people know two things: that data centres have something to do with the internet, and that they use a lot of power. Beyond that, misconceptions flourish. We’ve chosen ten common myths about data centres and explained where and why they diverge from reality.
1 Data centres don’t employ anybody
Data centres generate jobs directly, in construction and operation, and indirectly in their supply and customer communities. In fact, according to IDA, there are approximately 5,700 full time data centre jobs in Ireland as of May 2018. Their most important economic effect, however, is the way they enable their customers, whose productivity, competitiveness and market reach are stimulated by world class digital infrastructure. Enabling our digital economy, data centres are the “how” of the internet. In Ireland, data centres are the foundation of an export industry of €69 billion.
2 Data centres are just big sheds full of servers
While some data centres win architecture awards, more commonly they resemble boring industrial buildings. But appearances can be misleading: nondescript exteriors house a whole array of state-of-the-art technologies; telecommunications networks, sophisticated cooling and ventilation, power conditioning, battery rooms, switchgear, emergency generators, control rooms, biometric security systems, monitoring systems and, hopefully, a coffee machine.
3 Data centre power use is increasing exponentially
The amount of data that we generate, process, transmit and store is increasing faster than ever before, driven by the digitisation of modern societies. But this data explosion is only driving an incremental increase in data centre energy use. Overall, data centre energy efficiency is improving through a combination of Moore’s Law (processor efficiency doubles every 18-24 months) and technologies like virtualisation and cloud computing, which massively increase computing capacity whilst reducing energy consumption. In addition, the migration of computing activity from inefficient server rooms to modern industrial facilities also helps to reduce overall power consumption. Overall, the net increase in energy use in data centres is relatively small in comparison to the exponential data growth that is passing through them.
4 Data centres can be built anywhere
Data centres need the “5 Ps” - Policy, People, Pedigree, Pipes and Power - although the order of priority varies depending on the business model. For example, in relation to policy, Ireland’s unique advantage is its political and economic stability. This provides the framework for hosting cloud services that are both private and public, but most importantly, secure. Ireland’s public policy is highly dedicated to a superior level of data protection and ensuring the safety of even the most sensitive data and information.
A primary hub for nine out of 10 worldwide Information and Communications Technology (ICT) corporations, nine out of 10 pharmaceutical corporations, three out of six top gaming companies, top 10 “born on the Internet” companies, more than 50 percent of the world’s leading financial services firms and 12 out of 15 global medical device companies. Ireland’s pedigree has an increasingly impressive portfolio of companies choosing this optimum location to host their digital assets.
With a young, talented, multi-cultural workforce well-versed in technology, Ireland offers companies the necessary support throughout a company’s lifecycle. Uniquely affordable and highly trained, Ireland’s workforce has been ranked by the International Institute’s Management Development IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook as third for skilled labor and first for flexibility and adaptability.
Ireland offers affordable power with a focus on renewable energy. Renewable energy is a large component of Ireland’s overall energy mix making up over 23.7%. A leader in the development of smart grids, Ireland offers a secure and high-quality grid and is an innovator in reducing energy use in the industrial sector. Ireland has committed to securing 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Lastly, global connectivity to Europe and the Americas combined with high bandwidth capacity and redundancy makes Ireland an optimum location to expand companies’ digital footprint throughout the EMEA region. Offering diverse subsea and terrestrial pathways, Ireland offers a resilient network enhancing the end-user experience.
5 Data centres are bad for the environment
Data centres do consume a lot of power. Because of this, most data centres strive to procure renewable energy. The ICT sector also focuses on research and development into clean energy and energy efficiency, and data centres increasingly work to ensure that the disposal supply chain for waste electricals is as closed as it can be and that the heat from the data centres can be reused.
Data centres are also enablers of environmental services, carbon reductions and dematerialisation, underpinning ICT-based technologies from climate modelling to video conferencing, car-sharing apps and “smart” grids: technologies that significantly reduce energy impacts across the wider economy.
6 Data centres are all in the Arctic (or should be)
Data centres are all over the world, and the choice of location is dependent on the business model and the three P’s (see above). While high-latitude locations excel in terms of availability and reliability of renewable energy, “metro markets” from Dublin or Amsterdam to Singapore are preferred by operators requiring close proximity to a specific internet exchange or strategic positioning at the gateway to a wider market.
7 Data centres have nothing to do with me
Data centres have everything to do with you, from the moment you get up in the morning to last thing at night. You rely on data centres for everyday activities such as booking a ticket, receiving a text, shopping online, paying tax, visiting the doctor, socialising on social media, storing photos, paying the electricity bill, or calling your mother.
We depend on data centres in the same way that we depend on electricity.
8 Data centres all do the same thing
Data centres do lots of different things. Some specialise in high performance computing, where vast datasets are crunched for genetic research or weather forecasting; others are run by hyperscale operators offering transactional services like Amazon or social media like Facebook; some provide technical space for customer servers and others are in-house, supporting corporate IT functions.
9 Data centres are becoming obsolete thanks to the cloud
“The cloud” actually resides in physical servers located in data centres on the ground. Cloud computing is the result of changes in technology and business models over the last decade, changes that enable more optimal use of ICT infrastructure. Cloud providers may build their own data centres from where they service governments, businesses and individuals, or take space in colocation facilities (data centres where multiple companies lease space for their servers).
10 If we switched off all the data centres nothing much would change
Data centres underpin almost every aspect of modern life, from social networking to government services, from air traffic control to weather forecasting. Turning off data centres is likely to impact every aspect of modern life, such as electricity, water supply, communications, food distribution, internet, emergency services, financial transactions, security. It is almost impossible to envisage a world in which they don’t exist. Here at Host in Ireland, our goal is to change and shape global industry perceptions and to raise awareness of Ireland as the home of the hybrid cloud. Now that you’ve learned about the 10 most common misconceptions about the data centre world, click here to find out more about our mission, and our partners that make it possible.