Question Time with John Hall, Managing Director at nLighten UK

February 12, 2024

With challenges of available land, planning, power, time to market and rapidly rising construction costs, data centre users and operators considering building a presence in both emerging markets and Tier 1 locations need to take stock. They must take a much harder and more holistic look at the pros and cons of greenfield versus brownfield. Demolition or abandonment of existing legacy data centres instead of refurbishment has been the norm for far too long. While building from scratch and contributing substantially to carbon emissions is sometimes the only choice – in the case of large hyperscale facilities, for example, there are growing opportunities for repurposing existing enterprise data centres that are either sitting empty or no longer used at anywhere near full capacity. This is being driven by the onward migration of enterprise and service provider businesses moving some or all of their equipment from on premise data centres to colocation and/or into the cloud. With this, there is an unprecedented opportunity to ringfence much of the embodied carbon expended in the construction phase of vacated legacy premises. Offsetting the environmental impact of future data centre operations in such facilities will also make a positive impact on zero emissions reporting. Clearly, significant investment, construction engineering and mechanical and electrical expertise are essential when considering the refurbishment and upgrading of legacy structures. Not least for assessing their structural load capacity. However, there are major benefits with premises that pass such scrutiny. Compared to a new build, these include significantly less construction expenditure and much faster time to market by a more straightforward planning process. Furthermore, there will be considerably smaller construction engineering workforce requirements and existing IT talent that can be retained. Crucially, there will be existing fit for purpose power and connectivity to site, which can be upgraded and expanded as needs arise. This plays particularly well for well-funded edge colocation providers where locational proximity to regional towns and cities is key to achieving low latency for enterprise business, industry, content delivery networks (CDNs) and regional cloud providers. At the same time this helps the data centre sector overall through a more sustainable delivery of modern facilities to address accelerating capacity demands, while also reducing its carbon footprint.


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