AWS is building its next hyperscale data centre in Didcot
Didcot A power station has a new owner. On Thursday, Data Centre Dynamics broke the story that a previously unknown company is in the process of gaining approval to build two hyperscale data centres on the site of the decommissioned coal power plant just south of Oxford.
The was built in the 1970s, and its 655ft chimney was once one of the tallest structures in the UK, prior to its demolition last year. The station officially closed in March of 2013, with its cooling towers being demolished in two stages, the first of which being in 2014, and the second in 2019.
Six workers were killed during the demolition process, which led to the Thames Valley Police bringing manslaughter and gross negligence charges against those involved.
A New Beginning?
AWS, acting through Willow Developments, initially proposed the project back in 2019. Planning permission documents include two 25 metre-tall data centre buildings, with a total floorspace of 54,760 square metres.
Planning permission maps for the two new buildings - Courtesy of Willow Developments LLC
The first round of plans also included 52 diesel generators with a total capacity of 950,000 litres of diesel fuel to provide backup electricity to the centres in the case of an outage. Due to constraints placed by COVID-19, the proposal has been revised, lowering the facilities by one storey and reducing the number of generators to 34.
AWS has been thoroughly cagey about its involvement in the project so far - a strategy adopted by most hyperscalers in order to avoid controversy as it pursues tax breaks and planning permissions.
A has gone up, touting the benefits of data centres and their supposed positive impact on the Didcot economy, claiming that, “The development will assist in meeting the demand for cloud computing. It will also make a strong contribution to the UK’s fast-paced and growing digital economy.
“Locally, it will make a valuable addition to the Science Vale and its economy by assisting Science Vale and the Didcot Growth Accelerator Enterprise Zone in meeting their objectives and goals.”
The site’s section on renewable energy, however, notes that the data centre operator behind the project “has a commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040, ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement. As part of this commitment, the operator is investing and innovating in efficiency in every aspect of their operations and is on a path to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025.”
The site continues to note that, “The operator sees major investments in renewable energy as a critical step toward addressing its carbon footprint globally, and its newest renewable energy project in Europe will be the largest wind corporate power purchase agreement in the UK. Located in Scotland, once complete, the new wind project will provide 50MW of new renewable capacity with expected generation of 168,000MWh of clean energy annually, enough to power 46,000 UK homes."
These commitments line up perfectly with AWS’ own sustainability goals, and 2019 wind farm project in Scotland, pointing firmly towards them being the hyperscaler looking to move into the area.
AWS keeps the locations of its sprawling network of hyperscale data centres a closely guarded secret. In 2018, Julian Assange’s organisation, WikiLeaks published a list of AWS facilities, including 38 in Virginia, eight in San Francisco, eight in Seattle, seven in Oregon, seven in Dublin, four in Germany and three in Luxembourg.
Recent data published by Synergy Research found that, at the end of 2020, there were 597 hyperscale data centres active around the world, and that AWS, along with Google and Microsoft, accounted for more than half of the global total.
“In addition to almost 600 operational data centres, we have visibility of a further 219 that are at various stages of planning or building, which is good news indeed for data centre hardware vendors and wholesale data centre operators,” commented John Dinsdale, Chief Analyst at Synergy Research Group.
Equinix: Digital leaders expect changes to working patterns
A global report released by Equinix has revealed that digital leaders expect long-term changes to the way people work.
As part of the report, the data infrastructure company surveyed 2,600 IT decision-makers from several different businesses spanning 26 countries in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and EMEA regions. The study also highlighted the biggest technology trends affecting global businesses and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted digital infrastructure plans.
Talking about companies’ expansion strategies, Claire Macland, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at Equinix, said: “Many companies are now investing more in their digital infrastructure to enable them to embrace a hybrid working model and thrive in the new world of work we all find ourselves in.
“Despite headwinds in many sectors, many organizations are continuing to expand physically and virtually into new markets and regions around the world”, she said.
The report drew the following conclusions:
- 64% of the 2,600 digital leaders surveyed believed there will be “long-term changes to both how and where people will work in the future.
- 57% of global companies intend to expand into new regions despite the effects of the pandemic
- 51% of businesses worldwide say they have rearchitected their IT infrastructure so that it can meet the demands of remote and hybrid working. Digital transformation has also been accelerated due to an increase in businesses’ technology budgets.
How might digital transformation be affected post-pandemic?
COVID-19 has demanded that companies make several changes to the way that they operate, including digital transformation. According to the study, 47% of those surveyed reported that they have accelerated their digital transformation plans because of the Coronavirus pandemic. A further 42% of organisations said their budgets have increased to keep up with the growth of digital transformation.
Another change in adapting to the pandemic was to businesses’ IT strategies with six in 10 companies saying that it has been revised in response to the situation. 58% said they are looking to invest in technology to “improve agility’ post-COVID.
When asked about their priorities for their digital strategy, 80% of respondents said that digitising their infrastructure was of utmost importance, while 57% viewed interconnection as a ‘key facilitator’ of digital transformation.
"This increasing focus on digitization and expansion is one of the reasons why Equinix has continued to invest in its own growth. We completed 16 new expansions in 2020—our most active build year ever—and expect to continue to evolve Platform Equinix to support our customers as they continue on their digital transformation journey”, said Claire Macland.
Potential concerns disperse over expansion plans being halted by COVID-19
The study has also revealed that organisations’ previous concerns that the pandemic will negatively affect their business expansion plans have been lessened.
57% of businesses have said that they “still have plans” to expand into new regions and of that percentage, nearly two-thirds (63%) plan to do so virtually instead of investing in physical IT infrastructure.
The full Equinix report can be found here.