The UK Government has finally recognised the economic importance of the Data Centre sector – one of the few industries where UK plc has a world lead – by their inclusion for the first time ever in a Government announcement.
(Data centres are the giant computing factories that drive industry, commerce, the cloud and social media.)
Said Data Centre Alliance President and former Minister of Transport Steven Norris, “The Chancellor of the Exchequer finally recognised Data Centres in his Autumn Statement as the major industry and economic wealth creator that they are, by removing the punitive tax regime that had been making the UK non-competitive in this business and forcing companies to off-shore their data centres.
“Britain is a world leader in the Data Centre industry and the Climate Change Levy had been wrongly applied to it because the Government, and indeed the public, were totally unaware of its existence! Something we at industry body the Data Centre Alliance (DCA) have been working hard this year to change. The Chancellor’s Autumn statement plus the winning of the first ever European Strategic Research funding for Data Centres now demonstrates that DCA has succeeded in bringing this previously unseen industry onto the Political agenda.”
Norris went on to explain that the Data Centres are buildings full of computer servers that power things like Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, the Banks all big businesses. Airline booking systems, Air Traffic Control, the NHS, city traffic lights and in fact just about every part of our lives are controlled by these massive data centres.
“The UK was one of the very first countries to develop Data Centres out of our world-class telecommunications and mainframe computing industries,” Norris said, “and we were in serious risk of loosing what are effectively the UK’s only remaining ‘factories’.”
We refer to them as ‘factories’ because they store and make information out of raw data. They are massive – often the size of five or six football pitches – and can consume as much electricity as a small city. “What the Government is now starting to understand is that it is essential to protect and grow one of the few industries where UK plc still has a world lead,” said Norris, “and we are delighted that DCA’s efforts in representing the industry to them have, in such a short period of time had such significant results.”
As recently as June 2013 when the DCA in conjunction with the UK’s foremost political magazine New Statesman produced the UK’s first mainstream expose of the hitherto ‘hidden world’ of data centres, no Government Minister could be found to write a contribution, because they were unaware of this massive sector.
The publication of that Special Report and a personal briefing by DCA to Greg Baker Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change brought about an instant interest. So much so that by the time of the second DCA/New Statesman Data Centre Special Report in August 2013 Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willets wrote a leader article recognising the importance of the sector and noted that Government Ministers Vince Cable, Michael Fallon and Ed Vaisey had all now been to visit Data Centres!
In the New Statesman/DCA special report, Willets wrote:
“Data centres are a crucial part of that infrastructure, and are an area that the government needs to understand better. They are the physical, tangible manifestation of the somewhat invisible and ethereal concept which is the internet. They are absolutely fundamental to a successful and vibrant information economy in the UK, supporting some of our biggest global companies, and our research institutions. London’s successful financial sector could not function without the state-of-the-art data centres in areas like Docklands, enabling computer-based and low-latency trading.
Data centres are the tangible manifestation of the ethereal internet
Moreover, in the UK we are good at putting together data centres – and this is expertise we can export to the world at a time when global spending on data centres is predicted to reach $149bn next year.
Concluded the DCA’s Executive Director Simon Campbell-Whyte, , “We are delighted that the UK Government has now recognised the imperative to grow and support this sector. And, although as an organisation we represent the industry globally we believe that this is a major milestone in the success of UK plc and are proud that we were able to achieve this on behalf of our members.”
“It is of course only a first step, and we are standing by to assist UK Government and Governments worldwide as they come to terms with understanding and supporting the digital factories that now power the global information economy.”