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France’s Growing Data Centre Hubs

A Feature Article by JSA media consultant João Marques Lima

With the fast adoption of data services, the country has seen in the last three years a fresh wave of capital being provided for expansions, not only in the capital region and the sea/digital port of Marseille, but elsewhere, especially in Lyon, Lille, and Strasbourg.From Paris’ cobbled streets to the sunny Cote d’Azur, France is not only home to some of Europe’s most scenic landscapes but is also host to an ever-growing amount of digital infrastructure businesses.

More than $1.2 billion are invested each year in the French data centre sector, which drives up to eight times more investment in computer equipment, says the France Datacenter Association.

According to Mordor Intelligence, the market is expected to register a CAGR of 8.7 % during 2021 – 2026.

The rapid penetration of the internet and smartphone has increased the usability of digital payments services across the country and has enhanced the demand for data centres in France. 

According to the Digital 2020 report for France, the number of internet users in France increased by 126,000 (+0.2%) between 2019 and 2020. There were 58.03 million internet users in France as of January 2020, with 89% internet penetration.

In 2019, as much as 62% of the French population made online purchases, and this is before the Covid-19 pandemic sent online shopping soaring. 

Digital-only banks, also known as neobanks, are also redefining the future of the banking sector in France and has attracted many international established neobanks sparking a need for new data centre assets.

Increasing cloud adoption across most enterprises due to emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, big data, and blockchain across various end-users, has also impelled the market in France. 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the French Data Protection Authority has served as a vehicle for further data centre buildouts, and this is expected to bring more investments, as it provides the protective legal framework for data storage and processing. This is an ongoing trend across Europe today and several other regions. But France is also moving ahead with new data centre trends.

The country is also seeing the emergence of edge infrastructure which is placing data storage closer to populations across France. And this is attracting big money. 

For instance, Cellnex and Bouygues Telecom have signed a strategic edge agreement to invest €1 billion (US$1.14 billion) over the next seven years until 2027.

The picture for France’s data centre economy looks positive in the near and midterm future, including from a land and power perspective, crucial to the spread of the industry.

 

Major Players

Being such a key market – let’s not forget Paris is part of Europe’s Big 5 known as FLAP-D (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Dublin) – all the major players have a footprint in France including Equinix, Digital Realty through its subsidiary Interxion, Telehouse, Data4, Global Switch, OVH Cloud, to name but a few. 

Some of the largest expansion projects are currently being developed by Digital Realty, which in Paris alone is investing more than $1.2 billion, including the construction of what will be one of France’s largest hosting campus in the capital.

Fabrice Coquio, Managing Director, Interxion France, says the development meets the strong demand from content and cloud providers, who are interested in a third hub in the Paris region.

“It will also allow companies in the east of France to improve the resilience of their infrastructure by being located close to Paris, while being connected to a high-performance low latency network.  It marks a new chapter in Interxion’s development in France to continue to meet customers’ demand,” he adds.

Digital Realty, together with Equinix, has also made headlines when Crosslake Fiber’s submarine cable connecting London and Paris came online. The CrossChannel system connects two of Europe’s Alpha capitals and important financial centres. The project reinforces Paris and France’s position in a post-Brexit Europe. 

Plans for what could become indeed France’s largest data centre project to date have been submitted by Washington, DC-based operator CloudHQ, part of the Fateh Family Office in November 2021.

The company is planning to build 66,000 sqm/710,400 sq ft of data centre floor area on a 13.7-hectare piece-of-land in the Leonardo da Vinci business park. Of the 13.7 hectares, 12 are currently under agricultural cultivation.

The business park is located in the Les Folies concerted development zone (ZAC) which covers 32-hectares to the west of the commune of Lisses, thirty kilometres southeast of Paris.

As the EU’s second largest country by population heads to the polls in April 2021, this is also a key moment in time for the data centre sector make itself heard.

The few project examples above mentioned are one of a two-part act needed to achieve that. Not only the sector needs to show its viability and criticality – which ongoing investments and the Covid-19 pandemic have shown -, but also come together.

 

Prepare today for the challenges of tomorrow

That is what the France Datacenter Association is doing by mobilising collective intelligence and sharing best practices around four objectives.

In its “Plan Ambition 2025”, France Datacenter’s president Olivier Micheli, who also serves as president of operator Data4, says the group wants to develop the attractiveness of professions in the sector, strengthen the resilience of infrastructures, innovate to better protect the environment, and overall, accelerate the development of the data centre sector in France.

“France has many advantages for setting up data centres and hosting data,” says Micheli. “Ideal location, temperate climate, low-carbon energy, vast business fabric in Paris and in the regions, very good telecommunications network, attractive real estate or even high-level skills: these are the main advantages of our sector, one of the most competitive in Europe.”

The association has recently also launched a seven-point list with suggestions for the French presidential candidates to address as the elections loom closer. 

The seven proposals of France Datacenter include:

  1. Strengthen the role of the data centre as a lever for ecological transition. Ensure virtuous environmental legislation for the sector, within a European framework, harmonize indicators for measuring the carbon footprint of digital technology, to provide objective information to users and encourage virtuous digital consumption.
  2. Promote the harmonious development of data centres in France by creating a General Secretariat for Digital Infrastructure, an inter-ministerial and cross-cutting position located at the confluence of digital, home affairs and ecological transition.
  3. Increase public expertise on data centre issues and more specifically on the data centre sector so that public decision-makers can best identify the territorial and national issues of digital infrastructures, through an annual conference and an institutional publication in coordination with the Ministry of Economy and Finance. 
  4. Develop regional urban programs including the data centre for better strategic investments in the territories.
  5. Reduce data centre construction times by modifying the regulations and legislation concerned, dematerialize the procedures to shorten study times, create an APE code for data centres.
  6. Qualify data and data centres to organize sovereignty with the help of the General Secretariat for Digital Infrastructures, provide a support plan for companies that want to host sovereign data on French soil, assign the status of Operator of Importance Vital to particularly critical data centres.
  7. Fill the jobs created in the data centre sector by strengthening training and improving the recognition of short and qualifying courses and by facilitating the creation of training, with tax assistance for training organizations for training in the latest technologies and investment in training materials. last generation.

As Europe plans its roadmap for the post-Covid 19 era, data centres are set to continue to enjoy mostly positive attention by all parties. 

For France, the country has a carte blanche to decide its own destiny and the question will be if it can climb further up in the data centre league, and especially for Paris, if it can reconquer its Top 3 place in Europe’s FLAP-D alongside London and one of the other three – Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Dublin. 

 

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