According to Supernap, which has just opened an important data center at the gates of Milan, colocation is a market that has the potential to grow at sustained rates in the coming years in Italy

by Paolo Corsini

Cloud, Big Data, the Internet of Things: these are the 3 most disruptive dynamics that are transforming the business activity of a growing number of companies with branches to the end user. This end user turns to the cloud to store his data, such as vacation photos, so that he can always access it and its loss-protected, but he struggles to understand how Big Data and IoT can affect directly him. The same user, perhaps, wears a fitness bracelet that keeps track of his activity on-the-go, day after day: this device sends data via the cloud to a computing solution that processes it together with that of all the other users who wear a similar bracelet, resulting in use patterns and health information.

This is a practical example of how Big Data and IoT are technological dynamics that are perceived as far away from the direct consumer, but which are actually based on him. This transformation, not so much the market, but rather the entire ecosystem in which every user participates, has led to a radical change in data centers globally. Originally seen as data rooms where business computers are stored to reduce noise and ensure proper cooling, data centers have historically been built in warehouses or in environments originally meant for offices.

The growth rate and the challenges that data center providers are facing has led to the creation of more specialized infrastructures: these are environments developed from the start with the sole purpose of operating such computing centers, whereby space, cooling and power are designed to meet the specific needs of many servers in cabinets.

There are a few colocation data centers in Italy, not developed for the specific needs of a company but which offer space and services to multiple customers, that have been built from the start as data centers. We had a chance to discuss this with Luca Beltramino, Managing Director of Supernap Italia, a company that, a few months ago, in the province of Pavia, opened a data center that aims to collect a market offer that is expected to be very large.

The new installation, with development planned in 4 separate phases, has been developed to provide a maximum total power of 40 MWatt on a total area of 42,000 square meters. The latest estimates of the colocation market in Italy show a total power of about 70 MWatt among all operators, with growth that should lead to over 100 MWatt within the next 3 years. With this installation, of which about 10% of the total power available has already been sold in the first 2 months, Supernap aims to become a major player in the Italian market

Customers who choose to enter a data center of this type obviously have very specific requirements regarding the spaces to be occupied, the connectivity and efficient management of processing, consumption and cooling power. Supernap builds its own data centers according to the technology package developed by Switch Las Vegas, which holds Tier IV Gold certification. This allows them not only to better address the customers’ efficiency needs, but also to provide a networking infrastructure that ensures the level of performance that big data computing requires in this day and age.

In the Italian reality, the role of system integrators is also very important, those who could be called the “middle man”: these are companies that connect data centers with those who need services but are not equipped with the necessary skills to better structure their requirements. These figures are fundamental to the development of data centers, as they provide companies with the toolset that allows them to enter a data hall with an infrastructure that is properly dimensioned and meets the needs of their developing business.

The Italian data center will therefore be able to grow, from the point of view of number of customers and turnover, at attractive rates thanks to the role played by service providers who are fundamental in an industrial reality. In this field of production and commerce, we typically find medium-sized companies specializing in their own vertical, and that is why they are not always able to easily locate skills related to the data center migration that will enable their efficiency and scalability in the future. But a strong push, according to Supernap, will also come from the progressive entry of large data centers of enormous international companies into the national markets. Think of companies like Microsoft and Amazon as examples, real companies that need to be getting closer to their end users so that their cloud services perform at their best; that’s why they benefit from moving their data centers within the same nations. Italy plays a key role, both for its large population and for its geographical proximity to North Africa: our country, in perspective, can become an important collector of data traffic from these areas, bringing Italy to the center of the European web traffic.

Presently, London, Frankfurt and Amsterdam hold the highest concentration of data centers at the European level. The competition in these three areas is very strong; all the international players have some form of presence. However, it is not centralization that offers limited latency access to both the end-user and customer companies, as well as the data center services used daily.

This is the key to reading the market according to Supernap, and what led the company to invest in Italy. Supernap’s expectations are therefore a strong growth of the domestic market, well above the average of + 3 to 5% recorded over the last few years, allowing domestic companies and the Italian web in general to take off. To achieve this, the role of data centers is crucial; balancing services, computing and cooling are key to seeking the highest possible efficiency.

The growth of data centers and, more generally, the increasingly marked interest in Cloud, Big Data and IoT, obviously opens up space for new jobs, generating needs that the industry as a whole will set out to meet. These are specialized jobs that may offer professional alternatives valid for those who specialize in these areas and, perhaps unknowingly, a professional development opportunity.