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UK data centre trends: Security, the cloud and Brexit

UK data centre trends: Security, the cloud and Brexit

The data centre sector is evolving in line with the ongoing Digital Transformation sweeping across the region. Intelligent Data Centres spoke to Eltjo Hofstee, Managing Director of Leaseweb UK, to gain insight into the current trends within the UK market.

Leaseweb is a global hosting company with more than 20 years of experience. Its hosting solutions include private, public and hybrid cloud, dedicated servers, colocation, a content delivery network and cybersecurity services.

The company entered the UK market in 2018 and has a five-year plan for expansion.

We spoke to the company’s UK MD, who revealed insights into the current trends within the data centre market in the UK.

In your role as MD as Leaseweb in the UK can you outline some trends you’re seeing?

The trend that we are seeing, and I think it’s everywhere, particularly in the London market, is a lot of new data centres coming up and the amount of data centre space expanding.

If you look back a few years, Amsterdam and London had around the same amount in square metres of data centre space, but now London is way bigger.

You see, London is really growing in terms of the amount of data centres. This also means there are quite a few very modern data centres as they’ve been built quite recently and so you see more and more data centres which can offer racks with a very high amount of kilowatts.

There is also a focus on security – not only physical but in terms of how to get access etc. You’ll see a lot of data centres updating their procedures and becoming stricter.

More and more customers are asking for certifications to prove the data centre is as secure and reliable as claimed.

So if we select a new data centre nowadays, we have some requirements in terms of certifications they have, in terms of security and also reliability and uptime.

We have a long list of requirements and quite a few are really focused on security and so for us that’s really a reason to not select one if they do not meet those requirements.

Within the whole economy of the UK, Brexit is also affecting data centre services. A lot of companies are waiting before deciding which data centre they sign up with, depending on what type of Brexit there will be.

What are the decisive factors which determine the locations of data centres?

We chose to start in London for obvious reasons – it’s the place where you have to be. We didn’t have any data centres in the UK so when we started, we were immediately able to lower the latency which is very important for some of our gaming/video customers.

We will open up another data centre in the London area this year, mainly for further growth and not so much for technical reasons.

And then I can imagine that we will open somewhere in the north as there’s quite a big tech community in Manchester, but that is not scheduled yet.

Who are your typical customers?

We have prioritised a couple of verticals – we focus on Internet professionals and IT professionals. Internet professionals are companies who exist because the Internet exists – they are normally, on average, the more technical focused customers.

They are very technically driven and able to fully utilise our APIs and all our equipment. We are a very technical company and have always been focused on servicing more technically skilled customers.

Then there are IT professionals, the majority of which are MSPs and those who offer IT services to more traditional businesses – basically everything else on the Internet.

We have MSPs completely focused on SAP hosting or MSPs very focused on offering a desktop service to large enterprises.

Then we can still do our technical talk to the MSP and they translate that more into business language to their end customer.

What are the key things customers want?

It’s becoming more and more important to have a low PUE in terms of environmental awareness.

But something else we really see is that, a few years ago, it was almost a religion to bring everything to public cloud. But now we see a trend where organisations are really looking at the requirements of what hosting is needed.

Then they will probably operate partly in the public cloud, partly in private on dedicated servers. We are able to fully fulfil these requirements of customers and that’s one of the reasons I believe we are still growing.

For us, this year, the focus is really on growth and becoming more independent of the Amsterdam HQ pushed by Brexit but long-term plan to have a completely independent entity.

For me, Brexit is a key thing – I am following the news very closely.

From a practical stand point, Brexit with or without a deal will put limitations and constraints on logistics. Equipment and parts for data centres are likely be slower to import from the EU than pre-Brexit, putting strain on companies and customers who work in the ever-evolving world of IT. Providers should plan for customs to be backlogged and have a surplus of stock to ensure UK customers can get what they need.

A post-Brexit world is also likely to help fuel an even bigger rise in the use of cloud architecture. From a data regulation and location perspective, the flexibility of cloud can allow for rapid adaptability in uncertain times, while mitigating the financial risk associated with long-term physical investment or expensive migrations.

Where and how does Leaseweb plan to leverage opportunities and growth trends to potentially expand its presence in the UK?

We have a five-year plan and that plan is now one year old, so we still have four years to go.

Within those five years we need to be a completely stabilised and a fully independent part of the Leaseweb group, not only financially but in terms of the amount of staff and the way we offer services.

Brexit makes us have to be a bit more independent. Last year we were ordering most of the equipment via Amsterdam and they shipped it to us but now we have to have a bigger stock as we’re not sure what the impact on importing will be after Brexit. It makes us more focused on becoming independent.

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