Tuesday, 22 November 2011

UK data centre market – large, mature and looking to save energy

According to the DatacenterDynamics Industry Census 2011, the UK is now one of the largest data centre markets in the world, with up to 7.6 million square metres of data centre space.

The full census brought together data from 5,400 interviews carried out with data centre operators in more than 70 countries, allowing analysis of 22 key markets, including the UK & Ireland. The interviews were conducted during June and July 2011.

Based on the UK responses, DatacenterDynamics estimated that the UK has:

  • 7.6 million square meters/81.6 million square feet of dedicated data centre space.

  • Maximum power consumption of 6.44 GW - about enough to power six million homes and 2.4-3.1% of total energy consumption in the UK.

  • A ‘population’ of just under two million racks.

  • A total amount of white space (empty space that can accommodate future racks or cabinets) equivalent to the area of 900 full sized football pitches.

However, given the size of the industry, growth figures, whether for facility or investment expenditure, are relatively low.

According to the census, like the US and other ‘Tier 1’ European markets, the UK data centre industry relies on a workforce that is reasonably well paid in absolute terms, low on academic qualification but experienced. But the Census found that the UK exhibits some of its own market idiosyncrasies:

  • A low level of outsourcing.

  • High levels of monitoring, due to the relative sophistication of operations and the time the UK industry has had to prepare for carbon taxes (such as the CRC Energy Efficiency scheme).

  • Concern about energy costs (although the census says costs are not high by European standards) but relatively lower concerns about energy availability. (This last point is one that I would think is likely to change, given the uncertainty of energy supply in the UK in coming years as aging power stations are decommissioned).


The census brings the UK data centre industry and its power consumption and emissions into focus. It gives the impression of a large, mature industry with plenty of experience. Growth is slowing, so some focus is turning to better monitoring and managing of energy use, which must be a good thing for Green IT.

Even if growth is slowing, it will still be significant, given the move to cloud computing. But the increasing use of modular data centres is also a factor in reducing energy and emissions. These solutions are increasingly available from a range of suppliers – see HP’s recent announcement.

The Green Grid has recently come out with a White Paper on modular data centres which summed up with the comment that: ‘This new containerised/modular approach to the construction and deployment of a data centre can be expected to be rapidly deployed, have lower operating and capital costs, and be equipped with higher density and energy-savings targets’. It’s not clear whether these modular designs were part of DatacentreDynamics’ analysis, but they offer a lot of flexibility as well as being very energy efficient, so are likely to be an increasing aspect of the market in the future.

© The Green IT Review

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