Data centers in Ireland have many benefits, according to the Irish government. These claims, however, must be scrutinized and challenged.
The Irish government has a document on data centers that reads more like the talking points of an industry lobbyist than a carefully thought-through analysis of the true worth and costs of data centers.
Below is an analysis of the claimed benefits.
Claimed Benefits of Data Centers vs. Reality
Benefit: Data center technology supports a wide range of sectors in Ireland.
My response: Vague and meaningless. There is no particular technical benefit of being physically close to your data.
Benefit: Data centers, as a form of inward investment, tend to have long life spans.
My response: Not really. An average data center building will last about 25 years, with the hyperscale facilities expected to last 15 to 20 years.
Benefit: Data centers of scale are another demonstration of Ireland’s position as an attractive place to invest, live and work.
My response: Vague and meaningless. The whole idea of the Internet and particularly the cloud is that you and your data can live and work from anywhere, that you are not locked into a physical location.
Benefit: Data center activities and services employ highly-skilled individuals. Ireland’s focus on ensuring we develop and attract the talent needed by 21st Century enterprise underpins our reputation and attractiveness as a location with a highly-skilled workforce.
My response: Not really. Data centers employ very few people. Irish data centers employ about 1,800 people, while consuming 14% of Irish electricity. If data centers consumed 100% of Irish electricity, they would still only be able to deliver 13,000 jobs. There are precious few high-skilled roles. Most are shift work jobs involving medium technical skills. For the local community, there might be a few jobs in security and cleaning.
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It’s a Google, Microsoft and Amazon World
Benefit: Data center development in Ireland signals our ability to provide and support world class infrastructures and data management/protection.
My response: OK, sure. But really data centers are like islands of sovereignty. It is Google, Microsoft and Amazon who control and manage the data.
Benefit: Data centers deliver efficient services to SMEs which improve firm-level productivity and cost competitiveness, and thus enhance our overall national competitiveness; and data centers facilitate the demands from all consumers in the age of data-rich content and customized digital services (including mobile apps, location based services, video streaming and online games).
My response: Surreal. Let’s throw in the “small business” sympathy card. That’ll sound like good PR. The idea that the data for a small business in Meath county is even in the data center in Meath has Lotto-like chances. Again, this “benefit” is so full of waffle, it should even embarrass a lobbyist.
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Are Data Centers Central to Digital Economy?
Benefit: Data centers are central to the digital economy. They generate added economic benefit across the value chain. Data centers provide remote support functions for other firms which themselves undertake production, research and development, marketing, sales, service and support activities in locations with no physical/geographic connection to the data center.
Perhaps less well known, is that centers facilitate many other sectors across the economy by enabling data storage, e-payments, securities transactions, banking, fraud protection, cloud telephony, inbound and outbound Intellectual Property (IP) traffic and disaster recovery services yielding productivity benefits to their users, all the way to those users customers.
My response: Surreal and ridiculous waffle, spiced with an oxymoron. All it’s missing is the kitchen sink, the metaverse and bitcoin mining.
We have a climate crisis that is partly caused by a data crisis. We are producing absolutely massive quantities of low-level waste data, and Ireland is becoming a dumping ground for this data. Most data centers are in reality Data Dumps.
As a country, we used to genuflect before the Pope. Now we genuflect before Big Tech. It is high time for us to develop a more mature understanding and view of the role, benefits and long-term costs of modern technology.