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The internet economy as the biggest cash cow for the Netherlands

“There is, once again, a miracle going on in the Netherlands.” This is how Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, described the role the Netherlands has as digital gateway to Europe, when he appeared on VPRO’s Summer Guests (Zomergasten) television programme on 4 September. Rutte was referring to the third gateway in the Netherlands. Alongside Schiphol and the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands also has a third important transit role for the rest of Europe: The digital infrastructure.

Since the end of 2015, the Dutch government has designated this digital infrastructure as the gateway to Europe, placing particular emphasis on the economic importance of this infrastructure and on maintaining close relationships with stakeholders in order to jointly formulate an economic vision to maintain and strengthen this position as Digital Gateway to Europe. This is not surprising, considering the following image:

Digital gateway to Europe

Digital infrastructure encompasses housing and hosting as well as connectivity, and these are exactly the areas of expertise of Interxion and its partners. In these fields, Amsterdam easily competes with cities such as London, Paris and Frankfurt due to entrepreneurship, innovation capacity and active participation in the internet community. And these are not so much “miraculous” as more permanent advantages of the Netherlands. In this blog I will explain why.

  1. Location

    Geographically the Netherlands is ideally situated for the role of transit port. That is precisely why the Port of Rotterdam is so large. Add to this the excellent infrastructure and you have a flying start for servicing the rest of Europe. This applies not only to the road, rail and waterway infrastructure but also to the digital infrastructure. For example, 11 of the 15 transatlantic submarine cables have landing stations in the Netherlands.

Transatlantic submarine cables Netherlands

The AMS-IX is the second largest internet exchange in the world, with a maximum throughput of 4711Gbit/s. In the Netherlands there are more mobile subscriptions than people and 91 percent of households have an internet connection. The broadband and telecommunications providers also offer one of the most reliable, fast and available (wireless) connections in the world.

  1. The people

    The Dutch have always been a nation of entrepreneurs . In addition, they are exceptionally highly educated nowadays: 40 percent of 25-34 year olds have a bachelor’s degree or higher. 55% of those working in the IT sector have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. The Dutch are proficient in the English language and, as a society, they are extremely technologically oriented. Therefore, many businesses view the Netherlands as the perfect test market for the adoption of technological innovations. That is also partly due to the Netherlands being one of the top 10 business friendly countries thanks to the attractive tax environment, the stable industrial relations and the fact that it is the sixth largest economy in Europe. Also, the Netherlands is the only European country where three out of the four large public cloud players have their own data centres, and that is why many foreign companies choose to base themselves here. That number currently stands at more than 6,300 companies. It seems unlikely that they are here just for the tulips. In fact, I think that this number may rise further due to Brexit. In any event, Interxion is preparing itself ….

  1. Tech Hub

    Lastly, the Netherlands is a source of technological innovations. 60 percent of the top 2000 IT companies are based in the Netherlands. In addition, the Dutch are exceptionally innovative . 70 percent of all innovations in the Netherlands are IT related. Protocols and standards such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, iDeal and the programming language Python are innovations of Dutch origin. And the Netherlands also has a presence at the top of the hardware sector – roughly 60 percent of all the chips in the world are produced in the Netherlands, mostly by ASML.

Digital gateway & data centres

There is little doubt that there are many factors supporting the important role of the digital gateway. Not only the geographic location of the Netherlands, but also the Dutch themselves and the entrepreneurial climate ensure that the Netherlands leads the way. It is of the utmost importance that one realizes that the Netherlands is not only a transit port for goods, but also for data. And that means that data centres are becoming increasingly important, for both the Netherlands and for Europe.
Now that the internet economy is becoming an increasingly large part of the total Dutch economy, it is logical that the demand for data centre capacity is also increasing. It is great to see that a data centre such as Interxion is fully aware of this. Not only is Interxion taking account of this by anticipating the growth of the internet economy, but also at client level, Interxion is ready to contribute to potential growth scenarios, with long-term planning and flexibility being the norm. In the Netherlands, the construction of our eighth data centre is in full swing . Interxion already has 42 data centres spread over 11 European countries and we offer our clients comprehensive security and availability for their business-critical applications. With more than 600 connectivity providers, 21 European internet exchanges, and leading cloud and digital media platforms, we really can state that these data centres truly are cloud, content, financial, and especially, connectivity hubs. And these connectivity hubs offer fertile ground for business growth, and with it, economic progress. Actually Mark Rutte is right. To be able to contribute to this, does indeed feel like a “miracle”, especially now that the Netherlands, as Europe’s digital gateway, has an even bigger pull factor for businesses and their data needs. The internet economy continues to grow, largely dependent on connectivity hubs.

 For more information about the Netherlands as the Digital Gateway to Europe, view the infographic here.

 

Seasonal cooling underground

Have you ever wondered how a data centre is kept cool? The most advanced data centres have long moved on from using enormous coolers buzzing 24 hours a day to cool the equipment. In fact, at Interxion’s new data centre, AMS8, the coolers have only been installed as a back-up. Cooling will primarily be provided by so-called dry coolers, which simply use the air outside, as long as it is cold enough. In addition, the AMS8 data centre also has an underground well system, meaning that seasonal effects can be reversed. Normally a cooling system has to work hard on a warm summer’s day (it has to use a lot of energy), but with the help of these wells, a summer’s day can actually become a very energy-efficient day. In this blog I will explain how the advanced, energy-efficient well system at the new AMS8 data centre works.

Approximately 10-15 years ago data centre cooling was much less efficient than it is nowadays. The equipment was set up haphazardly in a room and very cold air (sometimes less than 10 degrees) was blown around the area. Much has changed in recent years, both in terms of the servers – which are now resistant to much higher temperatures than previously – and also in terms of the generation and distribution of the cooling. This has been partly stimulated by the increasing concern about energy use in the IT industry and the sharply increased focus on low-energy design and build. The use of wells is a good example of this; the total energy needs of a data centre can be drastically reduced by using a well system.

Before the wells are dug, the soil structure needs to be examined. The area where the AMS8 data centre is being built has proven to be very suitable for constructing the well system. The wells are constructed by drilling to a depth of 160 metres and installing a system of pipes. At this depth there are various aquifers which can be tapped into. At AMS8 the so-called duo-wells are used. In total, there will be ten wells for AMS8, which will together form five duo-wells. Drilling a well is precise, specialist work. The pipes in the wells have filter units which will allow water in but keep sand out. The water in a well is brackish, a mixture of fresh water and salt water, and therefore the well system is made of corrosion-resistant materials.

‘It takes two to tango’
The operation of such a duo is as simple as it is ingenious. A duo consists of a combination of a cold well and a warm well, interconnected and positioned at a considerable distance from each other. At the start, the wells are all equally cold, the natural temperature of the water being around 11 degrees. In the summer, cold water is pumped up from the cold well and warmed once by the data centre and then fed back into the warm well. In the winter, this process is reversed. On cold winter days, the dry coolers easily provide more cooling than the data centre needs and the additional capacity is then used to cool the warm wells back to their original temperature. This means that the wells can be used sustainably, year after year, season after season.

Closed system
The well systems are closed systems so no ‘well water’ passes through the data centre. The cooling is extracted via a heat exchanger to which the data centre’s cooling system is also connected.

Renewable and efficient
Interxion wants to consciously manage its energy needs and so the use of these wells is a very good fit for fulfilling these energy requirements. It is a wonderful system that works together cleverly with the natural environment and the seasons to provide a reliable, energy-efficient cooling system which respects the environment and helps our clients further reduce their costs!

More to security than just cyber security

Nowadays, data is the world’s most valuable asset. Quality content, personal records, photos, camera images and big-data initiatives that bridge the gap between IT and business: all this information is digital. It’s not surprising then, that businesses are getting more and more concerned about the security of their data. Research carried out by Interxion this year confirms that the large majority of medium and large sized financial institutions, government organisations and IT companies are worried about data leaks or cyber attacks.

Due to the ever increasing amount of company data stored in the cloud, the first port of call for these businesses are virtual security measures. The adoption of cloud computing means that businesses exercise less and less control over the administration.  Moreover, many cloud-like services are based on the principle of multiple participants sharing the underlying infrastructure so as to take full advantage of economies of scale. This shared usage leads companies to believe – albeit, wrongly – that others are in a position to gain easy access to their data. The organisation’s individual requirements, application and data set will determine whether a cloud service is appropriate, and if so, which cloud format that is. For most organisations, the best solution lies in a combination of a public cloud, private cloud and ‘on-premise’ infrastructure. There is good reason, after all, why this type of hybrid solution comes out on top as most popular in a number of studies.

 

Virtual and physical

Whereas cloud service providers are theoretically in charge of virtual security, colocation data centres – where the cloud solution is housed – are in charge of physical security. This is why our newest data centre, AMS8 on the Schiphol Campus, needs to satisfy the highest security guidelines and has numerous levels of security. At the very least, this means ‘perimeter’ security around the site and at the entrance, ‘mantraps’ in the data centre, access systems at the entrance to the various areas in the data centre, locked data centre cabinets and biometric checks such as fingerprint scans. In addition, no person is allowed into or out of the data centre without their identity being confirmed by security. Every visitor must be registered in advance and only authorised persons have access to the data floor.

But the protection of your data goes even further. Other additional measures have been implemented to guarantee the security of the data in the data centre, including 24/7 camera monitoring all around and in the data centre, combined with specialist security guards who patrol the area. Within the data centre itself, the various areas are locked, with the only key holders being the data centre administrator and the client. This means that even the data centre staff only has access to the servers when the client grants them permission. This guarantees the owner of the data a safe environment.

 

Certification

As with all Interxion data centres, AMS8 will be governed by a number of strict regulations. For example, processes are according to to ITIL standards, the SLA includes guarantees on power supply, cooling and humidity, and physical systems and security processes are ISO 27001 certified for information security management and BS25999 certified for the proper management and monitoring of the Business Continuity Management System. ISO 27001 is the most comprehensive international standard for physical systems and security processes. The audit and certification process covers all aspects of the data centre, from physical infrastructure and access management, to back-up systems and the authority of staff. With processes, it’s also about seemingly logical codes of conduct that could represent a threat to the physical security of data, such as no eating and drinking on the data floor and banning flammable materials and substances inside the data centre. They represent an important confidence factor for businesses.

 

Stratification

Whenever someone visits one of our data centres for the first time, they are generally surprised by the very noticeable security measures in place. This is because the security measures at an independent collocation data centre are usually far more extensive than those at a company with its own on-site data centre. The result is often an enhanced sense of confidence in the total cloud concept. Which is understandable, given that the physical security measures are far more visible and tangible than the virtual security measures of cloud providers and IT service providers. The security of the cloud is, however, not limited to cyber security alone: the physical location of ‘the cloud’ enjoys just as physical a protection.

Data centres are good for the environment

While the financial and scalability advantages of the cloud and data centres are clear to everybody, the environmental aspect remains a topic of much discussion. It is often said of providers of data centre services and cloud computing that they do not do enough to be regarded as ecologically sustainable. Of course, it cannot be denied that these parties consume a very large amount of energy, but the cloud is still much better for the environment than most people initially think.

 

We are in the middle of the “Information Big Bang” and mankind is expected to generate more data in the next five years than in the last 500 years. Although only time can tell whether that is true, one thing is certain: data can be found everywhere these days. It is created by everybody with a smartphone, tablet or PC. Even our cars, houses and many other appliances now produce data. And an increasing amount of storage and processing capacity is required for this ever increasing volume of data. The systems that facilitate this capacity run in data centres. These data centres use energy to provide the systems with electricity and to run cooling systems to guarantee a conditioned environment. AMS8, just like all of Interxion’s other data centres, has a large power supply capacity with a phased modular architecture to facilitate the most efficient use of energy.

To the advantage of cloud providers, they have a high-quality IT infrastructure which is extremely homogeneous and has a high occupation rate and good scalability. This ensures that cloud providers generally waste less energy than traditional IT models. Furthermore, the concentration of servers in a single location results in a large ecological advantage compared to if these servers were located in the many individual organizations. In addition, cloud providers are in a position to select energy-efficient data centres, thanks to their size and the uniform way in which they save and process data. The large independent providers of colocation data centre services, in particular, lead the way in the use of sustainable energy technologies and the innovative methods used to increase energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and decrease the amount of waste.

Taking the above into consideration, cloud providers and data centre providers are generally much more energy efficient than traditional IT models and enterprise companies. On top of that, cloud providers and data centre providers are doing everything to further reduce their energy consumption. For this reason, we continuously monitor our data centre environment so that we can optimize our energy consumption every day. However, the image that many people have of data centre suppliers and of the cloud is not going to change overnight. It will require time, and data centre suppliers and cloud providers will, therefore, have to continue coming up with innovative ideas to continue contributing to the cleanest possible environment. It is for good reason that Interxion has committed itself to using sustainable energy technologies, such as using outside air and groundwater for cooling and recycling residual heat.