By Tim Bawtree, Founder and CEO of Quantum Switch
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Governments and private investors across the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia are all driving the digitalisation of economies and societies across the region. Data centre growth in the region is predicted to run at over 10% between now and 2027. As the Next Billion come online, new data centre capacity in these regions, and lots of it, is required. Finding suitable sites, securing land, sufficient sustainable power and connectivity at speed is the challenge. It is no longer about location, location, location. Prospering in new markets in the south and east of the globe is about location, green power and skills.
Securing limited stock
In established hubs like the DFLAP markets or the emerging hot spots in the Nordics or eastern Europe you know what you are looking for. Similar or even adjacent sites are easier to find. But with little existing stock there is not this layer of experience and understanding to call upon in rapidly emerging markets like the Middle East and North Africa.
With few established hubs and no ‘muscle memory’ of what makes a good site, it’s hard graft to locate, visit, assess and secure sites. Finding the right sites – and persuading existing landowners of the benefits of developing data centres is our core competency. We create win-win situations that not only see fair prices for land (rental or purchase) but create opportunities for landowners and local communities to truly benefit from the siting, construction and operation of a data centre.
Our second advantage comes through re-thinking access to sufficient power. Emerging economies have different challenges from the developed nation’s aging grids which were not designed to handle the power demands of modern infrastructure. With relatively sparse energy distribution infrastructure in the Middle East, Africa and SE Asia, the opportunity we see lies in coordinating digital and energy infrastructure investment and expansion. With less legacy infrastructure, emerging markets are free to ‘leap-frog’ to new generation technologies that can build green grids from the outset.
We also challenge legacy thinking that seeks to locate data centres close to metros with their dense user populations. It is far easier to lay cable to connect to them than to build energy distribution infrastructure to bring the power. We are working with major development companies such as Tamasuk, to co-create future-fit infrastructure that meets the demands of urbanisation, digitalisation and sustainable growth as one.
Exciting innovations such as micro-grids and alternative primary power sources are entering the consideration of designers and planners across the region as they look to integrate cutting-edge technologies into integrated plans. We are looking to combine our site developments with investment in new generation capacity in close proximity to maximise efficiency and place data centres at the heart of business and enterprise zones.
The region has made significant commitments to switch to fossil-free power, planning to invest $182.3 billion to add up to 57GW of sustainable energy capacity by 2025. Solar and wind-power generation can supply 100% carbon free power for sites as well as to surrounding businesses and consumers. We have committed to ensure investment in sufficient sustainable energy generation capacity ahead of new data centre capacity. Not only will it help prevent the constrained supply and restrictions seen in established markets but will leverage government policies to invest in renewable and sustainable energy generation.
It is central to our purpose as a company that our facilities create value for the local communities around them. That includes creating meaningful, well paid, high skill jobs for local people. Through partnering and joint ventures plus utilising innovative modular designs we are able to build high specification, high security data centres quickly using a high proportion of local labour – thus immediately creating employment.
Once built, we offer specialised training so that existing tradespeople, from electricians and engineers to facilities managers and security staff, can quickly qualify for roles in our data centre operations. Not only does this equip them for an exciting role now, but it establishes the foundation for a rewarding career in the nascent data centre industry in their country and beyond.
Location, Green Power & Skills Delivered
To find out more about how Quantum Switch can help you rapidly access the sites, green power and skills needed to build capacity to serve the Next Billion online, please get in touch.