Facebook’s recent announcement that it is establishing its own data center in Clonee, Ireland has implications for a number of business and tech-related movements, not the least of which is the clear need for more infrastructure, particularly for American businesses overseas. But the development also speaks to the perennially rocky relationship between Silicon Valley and European regulators.
The data center is Facebook’s second in Europe. (The first is based in Luela, Sweden.) TechCrunch reports that this is Facebook’s sixth data center overall; it is set to begin operations in late 2017/early 2018 and will be powered solely by renewable energy. Another intriguing aspect of Facebook’s new data center location is that all of its hardware and software will be powered by the company’s Open Compute Project — a program that was launched by Facebook in conjunction with other industry players to create open-source infrastructure. Bringing that open-source innovation to Europe will likely add to Ireland’s complex reputation as an arbiter for new tech.
Facebook isn’t the only company scoping out Irish soil for infrastructure. Last fall, Amazon reported that it is going to build a new $113 million data center at a business park in Dublin where it already has two facilities. Ireland is a desirable country for data center operation because of its low tax in the E.U., low-risk landscape for natural disasters, government support, and workforce talent.
This move comes at a time when Europe’s concern over American tech companies basing their operations on the continent is at a peak (of sorts). The privacy-based standoff between Facebook and European courts is related to the fact that Facebook has some servers based in Ireland (not an entire data center) and uses that fact to insist that it does not have to abide by the privacy and data standards of other countries — an issue that came to a boiling point last year between Hamburg and the social network. Belgium has also faced off with Facebook over the last six months because of its collection of user data and alleged violation of Belgian privacy laws. Other companies have had similar stand-offs. Microsoft revealed in November that it will offer European customers the option of storing their cloud data in Germany powered by two data centers overseen by Deutsche Telekom AG.
It is worth noting that Brazil got close to demanding that companies like Facebook set up data centers within its borders a couple of years ago — something, of course, which would never have come to be even if Rousseff had managed to push the mandate through. Clearly there is a growing need for more infrastructure to power the tech world. Europe could be seeing more of these data center build-outs over the next several years as companies like Facebook and Amazon set the stage for more American tech biz overseas.