back to article Bored with Blighty? Relocation lessons for the data centre jetset

Building a data centre in the UK is a difficult business: the land’s expensive, planning permission is tough and the operating costs are high, particularly where power is concerned. As an epicentre of business and commerce, London is the obvious choice – it hosts the country’s major internet transit hub to boot – but it scores …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Depresses me that consideration for UK areas...

    ...outside London didn't even get a mention. Not saying that there are any options, but if there aren't, then there isn't really any hope for any other types of business.

    UK <> London.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Depresses me that consideration for UK areas...

      And why wasn't the rest of Europe included, there are a ton of data centres here on the continent. Keeping stuff on the continent also makes Data Security people a lot more friendly...

      With the United States Patriot Act etc, your data becomes their data which is not welcomed in many European and Swiss like, countries.

      Definately agree with the OP, London <> UK......

    2. frank ly

      Re: Depresses me that consideration for UK areas...

      The North Sea would make a great heat dump and would be a short undersea cable run away from the Scandinavian data centres.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Depresses me that consideration for UK areas...

        They could then pump that hot water around Scotland during the long dreary winter nights.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Depresses me that consideration for UK areas...

          Scotland had/has some collocation of hydroelectric generation and high-consumption industries like aluminium smelting. I'm pretty sure you would get a good deal on power and no cooling problems in those locations. Getting top-notch connectivity might be an issue, but I guess it depends on what your budget is and what the ratio of data to processing load in the centre is.

          However, understanding the locals can be a challenge, even for those born in Scotland but 50 miles away...

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Depresses me that consideration for UK areas...

      Quite... Harwell Oxford, surprisingly, is arguably one of the best-connected places in the UK outside London. Why? Because Janet has its HQ there and STFC is a CERN Tier 1 centre and they slurp data from Meyrin like crazy.

      The bandwidth available on this quaint little business campus is staggering. With Didcot B just 2 miles down the road, and a major solar farm being built a mile away, with easy access to the A34 (and by extension the M4) and the Great Western Line (Paddington, Reading), it's actually not a bad place.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Depresses me that consideration for UK areas...

        There are loads of examples of large data centres outside of the London, heck, just look at the telco's.

        It not hard to Google (oh look Ireland, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands) and find loads out there from a few dozen racks to a few thousand.

        If anything the one place in the UK NOT to put a DC is bloody London.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Depresses me that consideration for UK areas...

          Putting a DC in London is silly.

          Putting the primary DC in one of those shiny towers in Dockands and the backup right under the Flightpath into Heathrow (viz houndslow) is just plain stupid.

          Yet, there is an FTSE 250 company that has just that setup. I was working there on that fateful day in 2001. Even then they couldn't see just how silly it was.

  2. Brad Ackerman

    Automatic weapons?

    Private security companies are subject to the same rules as any other non-government actor, so I rather doubt those were actually automatic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Automatic weapons?

      That really depends on what the ATF allows under licensing. You can own an automatic weapon with the right license.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Automatic weapons?

        I would much prefer they were automatic than being directly controlled by must US security guards or Police.

        ps. When I visited certain US aerospace corporations in the 80s they had patrolling green painted jeeps with large guns mounted on the back and men in green uniforms sitting in them. I very much doubt the guns were single shot.

      2. Brad Ackerman

        Re: Automatic weapons?

        18 USC §922(o):

        (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), it shall be unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun.

        (2) This subsection does not apply with respect to—

        (A) a transfer to or by, or possession by or under the authority of, the United States or any department or agency thereof or a State, or a department, agency, or political subdivision thereof; or

        (B) any lawful transfer or lawful possession of a machinegun that was lawfully possessed before the date this subsection takes effect.

        It would be legal for the security guards to possess automatic weapons under §922(o)(2)(B) provided that they were lawfully possessed by a private citizen before 19 May 1986, provided that they are employees of the owner or lessee of the data center and not contractors (Virginia Code §18.2-291). But since weapons in that category are a) extremely expensive and b) would not provide any additional utility for that job beyond, say, Mossberg 500s, it's about as likely as the guards being issued Bugatti Veyrons for vehicular patrol.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Automatic weapons?

          > It would be legal for the security guards to possess automatic weapons under §922(o)(2)(B) provided that they were lawfully possessed by a private citizen before 19 May 1986

          What I find interesting is that where I live in Europe we (as in, any individual in possession of a weapons licence) can legally own automatic weapons without much faffing about, other than the police having to approve your request beforehand (semi-autos only require notification, not prior approval). Not many people own full autos though, as they're just not practical for most uses. The few guys I know who have them have bought them either for the fun of it or because they're into collecting the stuff.

          1. Khaptain Silver badge

            Re: Automatic weapons?

            "What I find interesting is that where I live in Europe"

            I would hazard a guess that you live in Switzerland, Luxembourg or possibly the Czech Republic.

            Semi-automatics in Europe are not difficult to possess, fully automatics are generally much more difficult or completely illegal. Here in France "Fully Automatic" is a class A licence ie : A Weapon of War, and therefore forbidden. I believe that this is the case with most European countries as the the classification in France recently changed in order to comply with most of the others countries. I know that there are countries with exceptions but there are not many, hence my guess at CH, LU or CZ.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Automatic weapons?

      > I rather doubt those were actually automatic.

      If it was inside a server room, I cannot see what use long weapons might possibly be unless they're automatic?

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    One thing that came up

    when I was a project manager with a lot of overseas work is that it's not just the language that can be an issue, but the way in which the communication is handled. Many cultures don't like to say no, but somehow things just don't happen... in others, personal status is important: has this person the social right to ask me to do this?

    In Brasil, for example, I found myself dealing with local contractors who would never say no, who were extremely agreeable to every suggestion, request, or hint... but my word were they slow. So one day I took a translator along with me to a meeting (my now wife, as it happens) and I suddenly became 'the man important enough to have a translator' and suddenly things started happening.

    Very strange. But it happens (differently, naturally) the world over. Some places you have to ask, some you have to tell, some you have to bargain. I found books by Geert Hofstede helpful.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Dan Paul

    Free Cooling!

    We have had several companies locate their data centers (or do studies) here in the Buffalo NY area because of the availability of some kind of free cooling (air to air or water to air) almost all year and the fiber backbones that intersect here. No language problems, lots of Hydropower, no lengthy commute, low cost of living and the 4th safest city in the US.

    One such unnamed company was looking to use Lake Ontario water instead of a chilled water plant. Ridiculous environmental concerns got in the way and they went elsewhere. Another decided that they did not need to have huge cooling systems at all and is using air to air because 8 months out of the year it never gets above 65 F here. The energy savings are huge and there is little to no loss of server performance.

    1. Donkey Molestor X

      Re: Free Cooling!

      Did that unnamed company see fit to mention that using Lake Ontario for water cooling was already a thing?


      Of course if the red tape you're fighting is big enough and dumb enough then pointing out a precedent wouldn't help at all.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes indeed, Ashburn offers a lot

    "Ashburn, Virginia, in the US is fast emerging as the very best America has to offer in the data centre world and it has an awful lot more going for it than just being located in a geologically boring (read: stable) part of the country. Near the Washington Dulles airport, this area is affectionately known as “data centre alley” and it is the main connectivity backbone for the US.

    I am sure one of the 'advantages' that the US government simply LOVES is that this "main connectivity backbone" is so conveniently close to government spy centers, like the NSA and CIA...

  7. streaky

    Uhm.. Nonsense

    Power provision is archaic, too: spikes and drops are common, particularly during major events like the Olympics and the Golden Jubilee.

    Really now? When, where, how long? Where's the data? The UK's power grid is generally considered world-beating. The whole nuclear replacement issue is a joke and the renewables future strike prices are utterly absurd - but generally speaking it's rock solid. I can tell you the stories of the guys I know who work in a New York data center who were hit by a huricane - basement was under water, gens were literally on fire and they couldn't get fuel in and the connectivity was sporadic. I have a photo from their Chicago office's whiteboard where they used Zots (the Sim City graphics) to explain the situation. This has never ever happened in London.

    Transport is another issue, with data centre operator Interxion installing sleeping pods on the co-location floor during London 2012 to provide staff availability and ensure travel disruption didn't translate into service distruption for its customers.

    Transport in London isn't any sort of issue. The Olympic thing never materialised, those of us who live in London will tell you there were way less people than normal and in any event there's generally multiple ways to get to things. Nobody actually builds DCs right in the centre of London and there's plenty of cheap land around and dark fibre and it's not too expensive to have your own cable runs put in.

    The fact that London is a major DC hub is the clue that the argument is nonsense. London has it's issues but it's generally a safe place to be and even major events like riots and Olympics (which are one in 50 year events anyway) haven't managed to cause any major disruption. Even when London has been hit by terrorists things have got back to normal PDQ.

  8. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Pacific Northwest is pretty damn good too

    Eastern Washington / Oregon state has become a hot spot for new datacenters lately: A couple hydro plants along the Columbia river plus some nuke power coming out of Hanford. The weather is very stable and land is so very cheap. If the coast is your thing, Neah Bay has some decent infrastructure and a couple fibers directly out to the CJK area and a couple links down to San Jose, CA.

    Of course data center locations should be decided on by the primary location of the users accessing the servers. Bandwidth tends to be limited on trans-oceanic fibers. Doesn't make sense to put all you servers in a DC on the other side of the globe when the vast majority of your users are sitting right next to you. In some cases, the bandwidth fees for the DC can make the decision a moot point.

    1. itzman

      Re: Pacific Northwest is pretty damn good too

      Your remark that "data center locations should be decided on by the primary location of the users accessing the servers" is predicated on the assumption that the users actually need massive data transfer capability: For some applications this is definitely NOT the case.

      E.g. the most extreme example of scanning petabytes of data to come back with a single page of 'answer'

      Something you could do over a 300 baud modem...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Sure, go ahead and send the kit overseas"

    You mean TAKE the kit overseas with you, surely? Improve DC performance and quality of life in one shot?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "security guards wearing body armour and carrying automatic weapons at their hip."

    Yup, Merkins love looking all macho like that¹. Wearing Ray Bans inside the data centre too?

    ¹ As opposed to young & scruffy (but usually likeable) Israeli security types with M4s casually hung across their backs. Those do mean business.

  11. James 100

    Fuel to the fire?

    "gens were literally on fire and they couldn't get fuel in"

    On the bright side, if the generators are on fire, being unable to add fuel to them stops being a bad thing...

    My email account lives in a pair of NYC DCs at the moment, and one got flooded, spending a while relying on generator power. No disruption to service, though, and they're adding a third replica site in another country to provide full redundancy just in case both DCs go offline at once in future. I was pretty impressed by how well the sites coped, really.

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