Pro-biz, green incentives give S'pore datacenter edge

Initiatives such as setting up dedicated datacenter park and encouraging green IT adoption to keep space and energy costs low can keep Singapore ahead of competition as key regional data center destination.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Small, resource-scarce Singapore does not strike many as a premier datacenter hosting destination due to its high rental and utility costs. However, government support, strong pool of talented IT workers and high-speed network access to other key markets in the region have helped draw enterprises as well as Internet and hosting companies to its shores.

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Google, for one, announced on Sep. 28 that it was putting together its blueprint for a data center in Singapore after acquiring 2.45 hectares of land. The Web giant said the new facility would provide its users in the country and from the region speedier and more reliable access to its services. "More people are coming online every day in Asia than in any part of the world, so locating data centers here is an important next stage of Google's investment in the region," said Google.

Softlayer Technologies, a cloud computing and managed hosting service provider, also announced the launch of its Singapore data center that same month.

According to Todd Mitchell, vice president of strategic planning for Softlayer, the company spent a "considerable amount of time" in the region exploring different datacenter sites and weighing up several important factors for its first international expansion out of the United States, where it is based.

"At the end of the day, several markets were appealing but only Singapore was capable of meeting our time-to-market requirements and also had ample datacenter space in a single building to allow us to grow over the next several years," Mitchell              explained in an e-mail interview.

Other pull factors included reliable and stable energy pricing, strong network connectivity, an educated population that would allow Softlayer to easily hire qualified datacenter, hardware and network engineers to staff its facility, business-centric intellectual property (IP) laws and a pro-business government, he said.

The vice president also pointed out the significance of its Singapore data center, saying the facility would serve as its "digital gateway" into the Asia-Pacific market. Almost half of the company's 23,000 customers come from over 140 countries besides the U.S, he stated, adding that the expansion into the city-state would bring its cloud, dedicated and managed hosting offerings closer to its customers and their end-users.

Another public cloud provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS), which set up its data center here in April last year, cited similar reasons. Company spokesperson Regina Tan said the city-state offered a solid technology infrastructure and regional network connectivity that allowed the cloud provider to provide its services to customers in the region.

"We looked at several different dimensions such as the quality of the infrastructure, proximity to technical and business talent and proximity to our customers," said Tan, explaining the company's choice of destination.

On the increased activity of cloud and managed hosting service providers moving into the city-state, Gartner's principal analyst Errol Rasit explained that there were two reasons for this trend.

First, Singapore's enterprise market was already matured, he said in a recent interview. As such, many companies had either already set up their internal data centers here or were contracting third-party vendors, which would then increase the volume of business for cloud and managed hosting providers, Rasit noted .

The second driver was the growth among local small and midsize businesses (SMBs) which, in turn, increased the demand for public cloud services such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), the analyst pointed out.

Green IT sees growing prominence
Asked how Singapore was faring as a datacenter hotspot in comparison with other alternatives such as Hong Kong or Shanghai, Rasit noted that besides being pro-active in attracting companies to set up their data center bases, the local government was also incentivizing green IT adoption.

"There are various ways to cut down on datacenter space, and by encouraging operators to adopt green initiatives and better utilize existing IT resources, this would in turn reduce the real estate they would otherwise need," the Gartner analyst noted.

The Infocomm Authority Development of Singapore (IDA) also regard green datacenter standards as one of its priorities for attracting potential datacenter customers into the island. An agency spokesperson said the IDA had partnered other local government agencies to come up with the Singapore Standard SS564:2010 Green Data Centres (energy and environmental management systems), which was published in January this year.

The Standard, he explained, is a certifiable, management system standard that provides data centers with a recognized framework, as well as a logical and consistent methodology to achieve energy efficiency and continuous improvement in this area. There will also be recommended best practices and metrics that companies can adopt to measure their date centers' performance and energy efficiency, he added.

Beyond the green standards initiative, Singapore is also in the midst of setting up a Data Center Park (DCP) to strengthen its position as an economic and infocommunications hub, the spokesperson pointed out.

This multi-agency effort, involving the IDA, Energy Market Authority (EMA), JTC and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), to create the DCP is targeted to attract multinational companies, banks, telcos and enterprises to set up their data centers, shared services and regional offices in the country.

"Such an infrastructure will also draw world-class Internet and media companies to host their content and services in Singapore, thus, bringing in more Internet traffic and international network providers," he added.

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