(This blog is adapted from the content of the Echelon Data Centres’ report, Data Centres 2021 | Power and Influence, a collection of independently-authored articles addressing key topics around operating data centre infrastructure cleanly, sustainably and responsibly.)

At the beginning of 2019, Echelon Data Centres announced an investment of €1bn in two data centre developments in Ireland.

The two facilities combined would have a capacity of at least 184MW, planning permission was in place and firm power agreements had been secured. The advent of sites with capacity of 100MW or more was (and is) a game-changer.

At the end of the first quarter 2021, Echelon’s plans provide a potential 500MW of capacity across our six sites in Ireland and the UK, with further European sites in the pipeline.

We are proud to be an international data centre infrastructure developer, providing large-scale assets to support the growing global demand for data and computing resource – sustainably, responsibly and with due regard for the environment.

The inexorable rise of artificial intelligence (AI), the continuing roll-out of, and increasing reliance on, the Internet of Things (IoT), the rapid adoption of virtual reality (VR) as a business collaboration tool, and the established use of augmented reality (AR) in marketing communication all means the dataverse is expanding exponentially.

All that new data needs somewhere to go, somewhere to be processed, managed and stored, and it needs to happen ever-more quickly and securely.

In 2018, predictions were confidently made about 175 zettabytes of data annually by 2025.

Given the dramatic pace of technological change, and changes in usage patterns, that we’ve seen in the last 12 months alone, these predictions almost certainly understate current and future consumer demand.

As long as people want to use their smartphones; as long as people want to take advantage of the latest technology, to benefit from automation and the safety, security and peace of mind that it brings, while moving forward into a new age of machine-assisted living – as long as such demand exists, there will be a need for data centre facilities.

The need for data centres is irrefutable, but in order for such facilities to co-exist in co-operation with communities, regions, nations and their governing bodies, they need a permission to operate.

This takes the form of agreement amongst all parties that there are societal, as well as economic benefits to establishing more and bigger infrastructure projects, and that the owners and operators themselves are taking their responsibilities seriously.

The focus for the data centre sector needs to be on three things – sustainability, innovation and efficiency – and the progress that’s being made against these imperatives needs to be widely communicated.

At this stage in the development of the data centre sector, it is not enough to generalise, nor is it enough to pursue the easiest solutions.

We need to acknowledge the issues, be realistic that progress is achievable in the medium to long-term and commit to working with other industries and tech specialists to deliver the solutions that we know can change the way we run our operations.

In the short term, we need to look at the available solutions – including so-called halfway house initiatives – the things that we, as an industry, can do now to help us down the road to achieving our sustainability goals.

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