DUBLIN, Ireland – In the rainy western suburbs of Dublin, the cloud draws near the earth, filling the halls of data centers for the world’s largest cloud computing services. This city has emerged as a primary hub for server farms supporting the growth of cloud services across Europe, as Microsoft, Google and Amazon build powerful facilities with halls packed with servers and storage.
Dublin is unique amongst major European data center hubs in that its appeal is based on climate, rather than connectivity. While the thriving data center communities in London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt are built atop network intersections in key business cities, Dublin has become one of the world’s favored locations for free cooling – the use of fresh air to cool servers. It is a prime example of how free cooling is giving rise to clusters of energy-efficient facilities in cool climates.
The free cooling revolution was unleashed by a simple realization – servers are much sturdier than were previously imaged. After many years of housing servers in digital meat lockers, research by Intel and Google (among others) demonstrated that IT gear can function in warmer environments with only a fractional increase in hardware failures.
This has led to a shift in thinking about how to design and build data centers, which has allowed the industry’s largest players to slash millions of dollars from their electricity bills by using fresh air to cool their armadas of servers, rather than power-intensive air conditioners and chillers.
In Europe, Dublin has been the chief beneficiary of this trend, boasting an ideal climate in which the temperature virtually never exceeds the upper ranges for using fresh air to cool the data center. The growing interest in free cooling has helped Dublin build upon its status as a technology destination for major U.S. technology companies. Both Microsoft and Google have more than 2,500 workers in development hubs and office operations in Dublin. In recent weeks both Facebook and Yahoo have announced plans to add hundreds of employees at new offices in Dublin.
- In late 2008, Amazon announced that it had expanded its cloud computing services to Dublin, adding a European region for its EC2 compute service. By 2010, Amazon’s Dublin cloud hub was experiencing robust growth, and has continued to acquire land in the Dublin area for future expansion of its cloud operations.
- In 2009, Microsoft opened its Dublin data center, investing $500 million in the 550,000 square foot facility, which effectively functions as a large air handler, moving fresh air through the facility to cool servers. In 2012 Microsoft added a second phase, investing another $150 million to add of 13 megawatts of power capacity.
- In 2012, Google opened a €75 million data center in Dublin’s Profile Park. Like the Microsoft facility, the Google data center is optimized to use fresh air to cool tens of thousands of servers.
These technology titans have boosted the existing data center ecosystem in Dublin, home to at least 13 data centers for providers such as Digital Realty Trust, Interxion, TelecityGroup and SunGard.
The expansion of the data center sector has been welcome news for the Irish economy, which hs been hit hard by the economic downturn that began in the fall of 2008.
“Our technological infrastructure is rapidly improving and cloud computing is one area where our climate gives us advantages,” said Minister Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. “The Government will build on announcements like this with more ambitious policies to take advantage of this potential and contribute to our recovery.”