The rapid adoption of home-working into our lives has given birth to a growing population of Zoom experts, seamlessly slipping between shared screen slide-decks and polished presentations, delivered in front of a carefully curated selection of the best high-brow literature we could find in our lofts.
The lockdown imposed as a result of COVID-19 has given rise to a mammoth surge in our use of internet infrastructure, with weekday broadband traffic increasing by 35-60% since lockdown began, according to Ofcom. Nowadays, where there is a demand for data, there is a demand for datacentres (i.e. buildings dedicated to housing computing and telecommunications systems) to store and process that data.
Recent years have seen a huge increase in the development of datacentres by technology giants such as Amazon and Google, as well as an influx of investment into the sector by banks and investment funds. This trend looks set to continue, with almost all the respondents (92%) to a pre-COVID 19 survey conducted by DLA Piper last year confirming that they expect investment in datacentres to increase over the next 24 months.
Datacentres have been described as ‘the new beachfront property’ from an investment perspective by Tom Walker from Schroders on the AJ Bell Shares: Money and Markets podcast, although the ideal locations for such buildings couldn’t be more different – with cool climates helping to regulate the huge amounts of heat generated by a busy datacentre. Where datacentres are located in warm areas, massive amounts of water are required to control their temperatures. For instance, plans by Google for a datacentre in an Arizona desert are said to require 1m gallons of water per day to cool the facility. By comparison, a typical Arizona household is said to only use up to 15,000 gallons per month.
Environmental concerns over the depletion of local water supplies have led to some inventive solutions, with Microsoft developing an underwater datacentre off the coast of the Orkney Islands and a number of tech companies developing facilities around the Arctic Circle in a bid to reduce their reliance on natural resources to keep their datacentres cool.
The UK can’t quite boast the frozen climate of the Arctic Circle (despite what an icy winter’s morning in Aberdeen would have you believe) but with real estate investment in this sector already growing in similar nations such as Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, perhaps our relatively cool climate coupled with our established physical and financial infrastructure will see the UK become an attractive destination for real estate investors looking to take advantage of our new found zest for Zoom.
The need to build facilities to store data is increasing exponentially, making this one of the most dynamic sectors in the industry but also one with an extraordinarily high entry level. So where are the opportunities and how are firms investing in them?