Scotland’s Largest Data Centre Launched
A partnership led by the owner of the Pyramids Business Park in Bathgate have announced plans for development of Scotland’s largest Data Centre, in support of the region’s booming tech sector.
Located in Bathgate, the 93-acre site will be transformed into a data processing and storage facility to meet the increasing demand for a Scottish data centre, “capable of handling the data storage and processing requirements of the largest of organisations and is likely to prove vital for the continued growth of Scotland’s technology sector.”
The project is being led by property-developer Ashfield Land and real estate manager TechRE Asset Management, with support from Cushman & Wakefield, Commsworld, Atkins, and 3D Reid. It will be developed in three stages, and will seek to work with both the public and private sectors as they increasingly turn towards digital services. It is hoped that the centre will help Scotland attract investment from companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and AWS, who have invested upwards of £6Bn in the data centre industry in Ireland in the last few years.
“Scotland has until recently been serviced by only a handful of high quality data centres which has matched historically low demand, in a marketplace dominated by service providers down south,” Roger Weir, Director at TechRE Asset Management , told DIGIT.
“There have been other large scale data centre projects announced however it is our opinion that the Pyramids Data Centre is more centrally located, better specified and already has a significant built environment improving speed to market.”
The Right Climate
Data Centre industry expert Gareth Lush told DIGIT that whilst Scotland’s climate is well suited to the construction of data centres, it does not have the right business climate, suitable incentives, or connectivity to attract the interest of large organisations – in particular, the major content providers who currently don’t have any data centre presence in Scotland.
“Scotland has a great climate for data centres, which creates a great opportunity to build energy efficient facilities. The secret to building an efficient data centre is cooling it with the minimal amount of additional power required to drive the cooling system. Free air cooling is the way to achieve this, but you need the right climate to support it. Scotland has that climate, so you can understand why people want to do it up here. It’s also got a lot of green power available.”
“The challenge in Scotland is that, where we have the climate to attract these data centres, we don’t have the business climate to attract them today. There is no incentive for a large organisation (such as a content provider) to set up a data centre in Scotland. There isn’t the populous of users with the right demand – we’re only 10% of the population – and there aren’t the economic incentives to attract them either. I think that until that bit happens, these data centres are going to sit there uncommitted, waiting for someone to come along and use the space.”
Ireland, on the other hand, has successfully incentivised large-scale investment, and Scotland should seek to follow their example:
“Ireland have done a tremendous job of attracting the wholesale data centre market because they did two things very well: One, they got the connectivity to Ireland. All the undersea cables that link mainland Europe and the UK to the US, for internet and communications connectivity, pass in and around Ireland. The second thing the Irish government have done really well is put the incentives in place, and create the right economic environment, to attract inward investment from large organisations – mainly the content providers such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others.”
The responsibility for creating the right business climate lies predominantly with the Scottish Government, who Lush believes have been slow to capitalise on the potential provided by data centres.
“You’ve got to have the political support to create the economic environment. That’s an opportunity for the Scottish Government. They should be getting behind people like Pyramid and other providers who have already made the investment and have live facilities to create the environment where organisations like Amazon, Microsoft, Akamai, etc., will want to come and set up here – and that’s just not here at the moment.
“I think the Scottish government are aware of the potential, but as of yet I’ve seen no positive action. It’s slightly frustrating because the Scottish Government are making great inroads into their digital strategy, and digital transformation. And they are making huge inroads into nurturing software development talent into Scotland. There’s lots and lots of software startups in Scotland. All of that is great, but they are ignoring the physical infrastructure. Having more data centres in Scotland is going to create a lot more jobs.
“All of the bits are slowly coming together; the one bit we still need is for the Government to really get behind it and create the economic incentives.”
Roger Weir also acknowledged that in order for Scotland’s data centre industry to compete on the world stage, improvements will need to be made to its digital infrastructure:
“It is accepted that Scotland’s digital infrastructure is far from world class and requires improvement to allow us to compete with other parts of the UK and locations such as Ireland and Denmark. The digital economy will have the biggest change on labour market since the Industrial revolution and we need to act now to improve our digital infrastructure or fall further behind competing locations.”
Despite this, he believes that there is enough regional demand for another Scottish data centre to ensure Pyramid’s success:
“The UK market is however beginning to show signs of growth in regional locations – such as Manchester for example – and we believe that this regionalisation will also lead to an increased demand within certain locations, including the central belt. There are a variety of demand drivers including the growth of Edge data centres and a need to place content close to “eyeballs”. As such we believe that a well specified, data centre located between Edinburgh and Glasgow can service a high population with significant business community.”