One of the world's largest data centres could be heading to Scotland with a site that will reportedly cost £1 billion ($1.6 billion), spread over 250 acres, with 3 million square feet of server space.
Douglas, Isle of Man-based Internet Villages International, a specialist property company has apparently raised £600m ($970 million) from unnamed investors towards its plans to build what could become the world's largest data centre, dubbed ALBA1, according to a blog posting on the Guardian. The scheme is set to cost £1 billion overall.
The proposed data centre is certainly ambitious, especially as it plans to open by 2010.
Internet Villages International touts the "abundance of low-cost land and water" for the site, as well as "4×100 MW diverse power feeds, 100 percent renewable energy and water, and multiple, pan-European and worldwide data connectivity." The site will reportedly run off power generated at nearby biomass plant and from local wind farms.
APC by Scheider will provide all the technology and infrastructure for the entire data centre in campus form.
"ALBA1 also works in association with APC by Schneider, offering clients a complete Design and Build service," said the Internet Villages International on its website. "In addition to freehold land purchase, lease, leaseback and rental options can also be arranged on a pre-sale or pre-let basis."
But what about planning permission? The site is located at Ecclefechan in south west Scotland and falls under the remit of Dumfries and Galloway Council. "There is an outline planning application that has been submitted, and we are currently considering it," said Michael Anderson, senior planner and the case officer. "They would require a further planning application (known as a reserve matter application) for the development to go ahead because it is only an outline application at the moment."
"We don't believe planning permission is going to be a big issue as we have already done a lot of background work on it," said Tony Day, global director, data centre projects and professional Services, APC by Schneider. "Certainly from the discussions that have been had, we still expect to deliver the tranche of the first facility by the end of Q1 2010."
Understandably Day would not provide technical specifications of the build, but confirmed it has been designed to highly modular, and will be built out in a number of tranches, with the first one erected on the site having about 100,000 square feet of IT space.
So what is the industry view of this monster-sized data centre?
"The scale, as described, is certainly massive, but Equinix won't comment on competitor's plans," said Eric Schwartz, the President of Equinix in Europe.
"What I can say is that there is a component of our industry that tends to make announcements first in order to try and acquire customers, and then execute. Equinix tends to build first and then execute. If these guys intend to open for 2010, then construction would have to start soon," he said.
So what is the timescale to build a new data centre? "From idea to opening, we are experiencing anywhere from 18 to 24 months, but this varies depend on planning permission and power," said Schwartz.
Schwartz pointed out that there are emerging sub categories within the data centre industry, catering for differing customers demands. "One segment tends to be nearer people [i.e. closer in], which is where Equinix operates, and the other segment is going further afield," he said. "The further out builds tends to be larger, the closer in tend to be smaller."
"No doubt, the demand for outsourced data centre services is growing rapidly," said Anthony Foy, Group MD of Interxion. But he questioned how long it would take for the industry to accept the idea of remote location data centres. He pointed to similar remote location data centre plans in Iceland, Wales, Sweden etc.
"There were a number of articles written about the Welsh endeavour last year, I don't know what happened to it," he said. "The Iceland development agency is still looking for likely suspects to move in. To date, none of those have really taken off."
"Will they take off remains to be seen," said Foy. "I don't see an underlining demand drive to remove equipment and place it far away," said Foy. "Certain sectors are highly dependent on latency such as the financial sector, and I don't see the latency issue going away any time soon."
Internet Villages International did not return Techworld's calls at the time of writing.