IBM to build four new data centres in the UK

ibm watson

Big data behemoth IBM says it will triple its data centre capacity in the UK with the opening of four new facilities in the country, aimed at enterprise and government customers. 

The cloud computing colossus says its UK investment will bring the total number of IBM data centres in Europe to 16, and to more than 50 worldwide.

The mainframe monster adds that its new infrastructure is designed to enable more powerful artificial intelligence systems – such as its Watson AI – to run in a wider range of applications in the cloud.

Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of IBM Cloud, says: “By adding four new Cloud data centers in the UK, IBM is giving local businesses an easy route to the cloud, helping them quickly innovate and respond to market demands.

“IBM is continuing to invest in high growth areas, offering clients higher-value cloud data services such as Watson and Blockchain running on our cloud infrastructure that delivers world-class scalability, performance and security.”

The new data centres will offer clients infrastructure services based on its Power hardware and the latest SAP Hana applications and IBM Bluemix development tools, among other products.

IBM says it has also signed an agreement to lease space within Ark Data Centres in the UK, which will see the second of the four new cloud data centres fully operational in mid-2017.

Ark is the joint venture partnership with the UK Government delivering public sector data center services under the Crown Hosting Framework. Crown Hosting, based in the same Ark facility, is already being used by a number of public sector departments and agencies.

As well as customers from the public sector, IBM’s clientele unsurprisingly includes big names from the private sector, such as Dixons Carphone, National Express, National Grid, Shop Direct, Travis Perkins, and Wimbledon – the tennis tournament.

Cloud atlas

Cloud adoption rates in the UK have increased to 84 per cent over the past five years, according to the Cloud Industry Forum.

Matt Hancock, UK minister of state for digital and culture, says: “We are already among the most digitally connected countries in the world, with a globally successful digital economy worth more than £118 billion a year and strong cyber security defences to protect consumers and business.

“Today’s announcement by IBM is a further boost for this thriving area, and another vote of confidence which shows Britain is open for business. These new cloud data centers will help our firms work smarter and quicker to become the world-leading businesses of tomorrow.”

IDC forecasts the global market for public cloud services will exceed $195 billion by 2020. This would be more than double the $97 billion in revenues forecast for 2016 and represents a annual growth rate of 20 per cent.

IDC says cloud software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) – accounted for 84 per cent of all public cloud revenue in 2015.

The remaining 16 per cent of the revenue went to infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

IDC expects IaaS and PaaS revenues to grow at a faster rate than SaaS, expanding their share of overall revenues in the process.

The Amazon trail

IBM has set its sights on gaining more market share in the global enterprise and public-sector cloud market.

The current cloud market leader is Amazon, in almost all segments. But the company which may have coined the phrase “cloud” is coming under pressure from competitors such as Microsoft, Google, Rackspace, NTT, Salesforce, and of course IBM.

According to data collated by the Synergy Research Group, Amazon is dominant in public IaaS and public SaaS, but IBM is the leader in the managed private cloud sector.

Source: Synergy Research Group

Synergy forecasts that quarterly cloud infrastructure service revenues – including public IaaS, public PaaS and managed private cloud – have now reached well over $8 billion and continue to grow at 50 per cent per year.

Synergy says while public IaaS is the biggest of the three main cloud segments, public PaaS is growing much more strongly. The database, IoT and analytics sub-segments within PaaS are all growing by 100 per cent or more per year.

John Dinsdale, a chief analyst and research director at Synergy, says: “Scale is the name of the game, especially in the public cloud markets.

“Amazon, Microsoft and Google continue to invest huge amounts in their hyperscale data center infrastructure, and all three have recently expanded their data center footprints and also announced plans to open up more geographic regions in the coming months.

“This scale is the prime reason why they are able to gain market share and pressure smaller players into consolidation or refocusing their cloud activities. Some tier 2 players are looking to buck the trend and at least some are seeing particularly strong growth, including Alibaba, particularly in IaaS, and Oracle, in PaaS.”