DCD Conference reflections - Preparing for the tsunami

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Andrew Fettes-Brown


Andrew Fettes-Brown


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Our data centre experts Andrew Fettes-Brown and Robert Nicholson attended the ‘DCD Europe Data Centre’ virtual conference in November 2020. Here are our reflections on the sector and industry themes discussed.

Like many professionals working in the data centre sector, we attended the virtual DCD Europe conference last week, one of the key events in our calendar and one that covered many issues and opportunities arising in the data centre world. Topics included everything from how we charter the course towards sustainability to digital transformation and digital twin technology and indirect versus direct cooling.

However, the overriding message that we took out of the conference loud and clear was the prediction that we are heading for a tsunami of work within our sector over the next few years and we need to be ready. Estimates from some of the speakers at the conference report for the FLAP market (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris) that we are looking at new data centre demands of 400 megawatts (MW) for 2021 and 435 MW in 2022. In terms of the FLAP market, this is nearly a doubling of demand for data centre space from previous forecasts. In London alone is looking at a deployment of around 237 MW by 2022 so the UK is predicted to be one of the major DC hubs in Europe.

This demand is being driven by the major hyperscale companies fuelled, in some part, by the major shift in all our lives to ‘on-line’ both for work and social/domestic needs due to the global pandemic. It is also being driven by the increased use both professional and personal needs as globally we continue to switch to a digital world and the acceleration of the Internet of Things (IOT). The sector, far from being a niche marketplace, has become one at the forefront of our industry and one that will continue to grow both in size and percentage of resources, skills and land it takes within the built environment.

Many investors are now looking to have data centres within their portfolio and many providers are becoming quasi-investors, not only key operators within the field but also investing in their market. London continuing to be a key location for these data centres alongside the other FLAP cities of Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris but also in secondary markets, such as Dublin, and development of new Availability Zones (AZ) continuing to be of importance as pressure increased on land and power availability in the establish FLAP zones.

How do we deliver the supply to meet the demand for the tsunami ahead?

The challenge ahead will be how we prepare for this tsunami of work, how do we deliver the supply to meet this demand, and how consultants, like RLB, can help providers to advance to market faster, and more efficiently. Coupled with this will be the knowledge and engagement with the construction supply chain to match the demand from the clients to the sector’s physical ability to deliver projects in terms of time, cost and quality in what will be a very busy construction market.

We have been working with some of the largest data centre clients for the last decade, both in the UK and across Europe, ensuring that we have the experience, market knowledge, capabilities, building systems and ways of working within the key European markets to help them do just this.

We know that the pandemic has affected the built environment worldwide and as an industry we have worked collaboratively to adapt and be agile to accommodate governance and restrictions brought on by COVID-19. Brexit will no doubt bring its own challenges to the UK market and as demand increases globally, supply chain will be pressured and resources tight.

We are already working with clients to look at smarter ways to deliver data centres faster, getting involved in the early stages of the process by analysing investment opportunities and helping clients to plan. By using sophisticated parametric cost modelling, we can already provide insights to clients for due diligence, based on robust data and data centre engineering principles. These parametric cost models can produce a myriad of project combinations to allow different influencing factors at different sites and help improve the speed-to-market of projects before even designs or any plans have been produced.

These cost models can be extended to include social value and sustainability so that clients can not only appreciate lifecycle outcomes of the data centres they are building, but investors can ensure that criteria outside of costs are fulfilled. Using this data will help clients standardise and modernise their data centres, enabling more efficient decision processes at due diligence and then planning to be based on real life data as well as speeding up the process of bringing the projects to market, helping delivery and generating supply for what we know will be an exponential demand.

It is great news that, despite the global pandemic, despite Brexit and the US changing political landscape, our sector is buoyant and continuing to grow. We need to ensure we put the building blocks in place now for standardisation and modernisation of delivery, based on real life cycles so that as a sector we rise to the challenge ahead.


Andrew Fettes-Brown
Andrew Fettes-Brown

UK & Europe Service Transformation Director, Head of Data Centres