The Heart and Soul of The Fourth Industrial Revolution
With the world undergoing its fourth industrial revolution, driven by global digitization, the data center is emerging as the fundamental technology, the “steam engine" of its time.
Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), has defined the fourth industrial revolution as a global shift emerging from the overlap and integration of a raft of new technologies, from wearables to 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and biotechnologies.
“The challenge during any revolution is understanding what’s driving it and where it’s headed” says Byrne Murphy, chairman of DigiPlex, a data-center specialist based in the Nordic region. “As we’re still early in the fourth industrial revolution, it feels like a gold-rush: huge potential is being unearthed every day, often sadly without attention to long-term impact.”
Providing secure, reliable storage to house these technologies is a rapidly growing industry. At the highest levels, hyperscale operators are investing incredible amounts in the area. A 2018 report by Synergy Research Group revealed that the capex investment of hyperscale operators reached nearly $75 billion for 2017, a 19% growth over 2016. Most of this investment, says the report, is for building huge data centers around the world.
Because a strong data-center strategy has become an inescapable requirement for businesses wanting to capitalize on the fourth industrial revolution, decision-makers face increasing pressure to manage both short and long-term costs.
“We estimate that an American company with a reasonably modest deployment of 100 megawatts over 10 years will save approximately $1 billion by placing their data center in Sweden or Norway, against one the U.K.,” says Mr. Murphy. “That saving is based on the difference in the cost of power alone.”
Cost isn’t the only important factor drawing international companies to the Nordics, though.
A crucial distinction in the fourth industrial revolution is a growing recognition of our collective responsibility to mitigate the harm rapid digitization is having on the global environment. “The more we think about how to harness the technology revolution, the more we will have an opportunity to shape the revolution in a manner that improves the state of the world,” Mr. Schwab adds.
Data centers are already responsible for 3% of the world’s power consumption. The massive server parks that house and enable the Internet generate incredible amounts of heat as a byproduct, which is often simply disposed into the atmosphere. While this may echo the increased pollution that accompanied previous industrial revolutions, it need not be the case.
“‘Going green’ is nearly always a cost to a business,” continues Mr. Murphy, "but not with us. We present a dual value: a cost difference so extreme that many, many millions of dollars in savings are possible in the short term. This is in addition to the prospect of helping to ensure that the fourth industrial revolution becomes a sustainable one due to significantly reduced environmental impact over time.”
DigiPlex data centers are designed for ultimate sustainability, combining renewable energy, efficient cooling systems, and heat recycling, to dramatically reduce environmental impact and serve the local community.
Read the complete Wall Street Journal article online or download a PDF version.