BT has outlined a plan to invest $2bn over three years to develop 44 Internet datacentres in an alliance with AT&T in a bid to become the leading datacentre supplier.
The investment will include two more London datacentres to add to today's Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire and London Docklands sites. E-commerce will be the primary aim.
BT's attempt to lead the way in Internet datacentres will not go unchallenged either by its traditional telecoms rivals or a host of new rivals including chip giant Intel. Internet datacentres are co-location facilities that host Web sites or applications to reduce IT management hassles and make costs more predictable for organisations.
"We think that where we have a headstart is that we have our own IP backbone and a common set of services with AT&T," said BT spokesman. "If you're only in the UK you'll use BT, and if you're worldwide you'll use [BT/AT&T joint-venture] Concert."
BT can also point to some considerable experience in Web site hosting for third-parties such as Shell and Granada. Some rivals, including Intel, will be relying on vast amounts of cash and knowledge gleaned from running internal datacentres. Intel expects to open its first UK Internet datacentre this year in Winnersh, Berkshire.
"The core server and networking technologies that Internet datacentres require play to our strengths," said an Intel spokesman. "We can test and configure a range of applications and operating systems based on our hardware so you could quickly get your presence up and running. We're focusing on second-generation co-location hosting where you rent space with us a and partner with consultants like PricewaterhouseCoopers that build your e-presence."
UUnet, an MCI Worldcom subsidiary, has a Cambridge datacentre that hosts the BBC, HM Treasury and other large Web sites, and plans to offer application hosting this year.