Titanic Quarter has been selected as the flagship location for the first in a series of next generation data centres being built across the UK, Ireland and Caribbean.
The £80m project, being developed by 'Data City Exchange' (DCE), is expected to open next year, providing data storage services for a range of high street banks, blue-chip financial services firms, media companies, software providers and Internet businesses.
'DCE Titanic Exchange' will be the first in a network of new data centres planned by DCE and will be a major boost to Titanic Quarter's Phase II financial services centre which received planning permission at the end of last year. Phase I is already occupied by Citi Group.
The exchange will be one of the world's greenest data centres with a sub-1.08 PUE rating, an important consideration for US firms which are obliged to meet stringent environmental targets. It will use up to 70% less energy than traditional data centres due to DCE's innovative purpose built design, free air cooling and use of renewable energy sources and carbon footprint reduction technologies.
John Eland, Managing Director of DCE, said:
"Titanic Quarter is a key strategic location for DCE to host its next generation data centre design, featuring our unique Evo-POD data centre modules. Housed within a purpose-built superstructure the centre will offer enhanced security and a 'data centre within a data centre' environment. It will also provide resilient, low latency global fibre access for some of the world's leading financial services firms, public sector and major corporate customers.
"The telecommunications infrastructure in Titanic Quarter is one of the most advanced in Europe. Northern Ireland's direct fibre optic link to North America is a major draw for customers whose operations depend on their ability to access data on both sides of the Atlantic and Far East.
"As part of the DCE network, DCE Titanic Exchange will benefit from direct, high speed connectivity to all other DCE locations as well as global internet exchanges in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. Our aim is to enable Belfast and Northern Ireland as the land as the next major European and Global Internet Exchange location."
Welcoming the announcement, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said:
"This project is a solid endorsement of Northern Ireland's strong telecommunications infrastructure and signals that private sector developers, such as Data City Exchange, have the confidence to lead on creating next generation ICT facilities in Belfast.
"This new data centre has the potential to create significant employment opportunities, leverage valuable private investment and support the further development of a strong knowledge-based economy in Northern Ireland."
Architectural, technical and engineering consultancy for the project is being provided by global engineering and technical services giant, URS Scott Wilson Ltd.
Purpose built data centres are in increasingly high demand due to strong growth in IT and data storage needs. This is been driven by growing business and consumer demand for 'on-demand' cloud-based services such as multi-media streaming and content delivery, business disaster recovery and online banking. High availability storage and high speed networks are also required to drive global financial transactions.
Mike Smith, Titanic Quarter Ltd's CEO, added:
"DCE's decision to locate its first next generation data centre in Titanic Quarter is a highly significant development which will raise Belfast's profile as a location for a range of back office functions for financial services firms.
"Across the UK the financial services sector has started to recover strongly from the Credit Crunch crisis and investors are looking to spread their activities outside London, from both a cost and disaster recovery perspective. Belfast scores highly in both regards and the open user, carrier neutral communications infrastructure at Titanic Quarter offers a highly flexible, cost effective solution.
"DCE Titanic Exchange is a strategic piece of infrastructure that will help draw other firms to Titanic Quarter's Financial Services Centre, a development which has the potential to attract over five thousand new jobs to Northern Ireland."
Welcoming the proposals, Dr Sinclair Stockman, Executive Director of the Digital Northern Ireland 2020 Initiative, and BT's former Chief Scientist and Chief Information Officer, said:
"A next generation data centre will help Northern Ireland continue to punch above its weight in the Knowledge Economy. We already have globally recognized centres of excellence in key areas such as financial applications, systems security, mobile applications, global networking and web service development, but DCE Titanic Exchange will also open the door to Cloud Computing-based technologies.
"Cloud Computing is the next 'big thing' in ICT and Northern Ireland's vision is to be a location of choice by the end of the decade. DCE Titanic Exchange is an important step in securing that vision."
Traditionally large corporate firms have constructed and operated their own centres with high upfront capital investment and operating costs. DCE will be one of the first providers to deliver bespoke, stand-alone data centre facilities which can be leased on a long-term basis with low upfront investment for customers.
DCE Titanic Exchange will initially provide over 1,050 racks of capacity, the equivalent of 11 standard data centres. A further 1,600 racks are planned for a Phase II development due to open in 2013. The centre will create 125 construction jobs and up to 40 full-time positions upon completion.
Currently, most of the UK's data centres are based in the South East of England in close proximity to London, but increasing demand for electronic information storage and a need to diversify the present geographic concentration of centres has created strong interest in regional centres such as Belfast.
Other DCE data centres are planned for the Wirral, Sheffield, Dublin, Bristol and Newcastle, and will provide an interconnected fibre network for customers. DCE also aims to locate data centres across Europe, East Coast USA and Grand Bahama.