logo-inex We spoke with Barry Rhodes, one of the founding fathers of the Irish Internet scene to get a better overview of the landscape. Barry RhodesQ: Thanks for meeting with us, why would you say Ireland is now a good place for companies to host their data? Barry Rhodes: Ireland has considerable advantages in this respect. We have many great researchers at a variety of world-class Irish colleges who carry out really innovative work with exciting, commercial potential (e.g. data analytics, spatial search, nanotechnology, sensor technology). Ireland is also a leader in renewable energy opportunities with wind, wave, and solar. Green Power is a good story, we are at 20% renewable energy now and the 40% target by 2020 looks achievable. Our price is still above some other European countries but the capital costs are reducing quickly and our stability of supply is excellent. The amazing success of Coder Dojo, BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, and The Web Summit have all helped to inspire and encourage a creative and capable generation of young people to drive continuous innovations and business developments. Five years of hosting Web Summit in Dublin has helped provide an awareness of Ireland, as being a strong knowledge-based environment for doing business. For example in 2015 there were 42,000 attendees from 134 countries interacting with 2,100 startups from almost as many countries. Dropbox is a prime example of an organisation that is bringing their digital assets to Ireland. They seem to like what Ireland is doing in relation to data protection and have moved their non-US customer data to Ireland. We are unusual in that we have both an Irish Data Commissioner, and a Minister for Data Protection. This means for companies like Dropbox, once it knows that it is compliant here, then it is compliant for other Europe Union countries as well. With all 10 of the top 10 ‘Born on the Internet’ companies located in Ireland, it is important that there is a direct line to the Data Commissioner and her growing staff numbers to ensure that all legislation is complied with I understand that this office willingly engages with companies with minimal bureaucracy. It is my belief that Irish ‘neutrality’, in a commercial sense, has also been important for attracting business. With a population of less than five million, we are too small for the larger European countries to worry about, initially at least. A factor of our success in attracting clusters of multinational organisations to locate here is that no country has had a bias against dealing with Irish based organisations, in fact, they like doing business with us.   Q: What future opportunities do you see for hosting in Ireland? BR: I am very optimistic about the future for Ireland. Mobile is taking over really quickly. When Netflix launched in UK and Ireland IP traffic soon increased by 25%. It is said that Netflix and Google (which includes YouTube) probably drive half of Internet traffic, which continues to grow exponentially, as the content becomes even richer with the advent of the higher definition 4k format. In the near future, virtual reality will become another major driver of Internet traffic. Initially, in the mid-1990’s, Internet traffic was mostly generated from business usage, but now social media is driving the growth. At INEX, 11pm is now the peak time for traffic on the exchange, whereas 10 years ago it was 9am, as office workers opened their emails. I am also excited about big data storage and analytics and their business applications. The Internet of Things (IoT) will introduce new opportunities. Without getting into the whole debate about Irish water, it is a missed opportunity that the meters outside each premise are not as ‘smart’ as they could have been, with the data on usage levels available to the users on their smart phones or iPads. Similarly, for traffic control and other smart city applications. There are a myriad of exciting, new applications in security, biometrics and health, with wearables and home automation, all of which will offer great opportunities to improve the quality of people’s lives and enable us to make better-informed decisions. Other advances are happening in smart device location detection which leads to smarter ad targeting. There will be problems along the way. I am sure that I am not the only one that gets bombarded with advertisements for items that I have already bought, or decided against, which wastes my time and the advertisers’. In these areas, there are still improvements to be made. On a different subject, I am confident that within a year or two Cork will be an increasingly important ICT hub. The Hibernia Express cable from the US has already landed in Cork and gone ‘live’. There are two other sub-sea cable projects, from Cork to France, which will provide a welcome option for those organisations that want to avoid routing their Internet traffic through London to mainland Europe. Overall, there are three different subsea, fibre cable projects that will land in Cork. This is in addition to the Aqua Comms cable from the US to Killala, Co Mayo, and then terrestrially on to Dublin. This additional international connectivity is bound to encourage further foreign investment into Ireland, and just as importantly, to encourage those multinationals that have already located here to continue their growth, based on the success they have already achieved by being located in Ireland.   What would your wish list be to help make Ireland even more attractive for Hosting? BR: We need to get the word out that Ireland is the optimal European country to host digital assets. As I have mentioned, I am already optimistic. The sector is growing rapidly. Those US companies that want to address a global marketplace must establish a presence in Europe. Almost without exception, those companies that have located here have succeeded and are continuing to build on their presence; I understand that Amazon is planning to build their 10th and 11th data centres in Ireland; Microsoft their 8th; Google their 4th; Facebook chose Sweden to build a massive data centre, but has recently announced they are to build another in West Dublin; this followed a similar announcement from Apple, who have commenced building in Athenry, Co. Galway. Ireland’s pedigree for hosting world class data centres is now well established and will continue to grow rapidly from here.   Q: What would your wish list be for hosting in Ireland then? BR: The cost of power is something that has to be monitored. Recruitment could be smoother too. For example, a technology visa for network engineers would be really helpful. It exists for other specialties, but not yet for network engineers, unless their pay is more than €70k p.a. This could restrict future growth if organisations cannot find the right quality personnel.   Q: We’ve covered a lot of the positive aspect of hosting in Ireland. What possible negatives are there? BR: Housing in Dublin and Cork could be an issue unless it is addressed effectively. A growing economy and workforce requires housing and we must plan for the future workforce we wish to attract.   Q: You were involved in the rolling out of the IPv6 internet addresses to solve the problem of a finite number of IPv4 addresses. Will the availability of IPv6 addresses be affected by the coming demands of the IoT? BR: Definitely not! A good way to explain this is that there could be an IPv6 address for every grain of sand on earth. Currently, the problem is one of slow adoption of the new standard, however, all new devices will use IPv6 addressing, which will eventually resolve this issue.   Q: In 2005 you were interviewed by Silicon Republic, about the future. How much has changed in last decade? BR: Well 10 years later, the speed of technology change has been impressive. It is now all about personal device usage and cloud services. I fully expect that future advances will occur even faster. I have also been pleasantly surprised at how successful Ireland has been in becoming a recognised international technology hub. At one time, we wondered whether the loss of companies like Digital, Motorola and Dell (manufacturing) would have a negative effect, but the break-up of those companies has actually led to many new companies being formed by those that had been made redundant. In fact, this is another reason why so many companies are now setting up here; there is an existing pool of talented, skilled and highly motivated individuals who have received excellent training and ICT business experience from the likes of IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Google.   Q: What more can Host in Ireland do to achieve greater hosting success? BR: Host in Ireland are doing a good job on a limited budget. Wider representation from organisations would be welcome, but it can be hard to get those that will benefit from the rising tide of more digital assets being hosted in Ireland, to commit a part of their marketing budget.   Q: Who would be good people to join? BR: Sector professionals would be good. CBRE is a good start, but we also need financial and legal people. Decisions about locating in Ireland are not always made by IT people, but by data specialists, accountants, and lawyers. I am disappointed that there is not more involvement from the carriers, as they are obvious beneficiaries of more digital assets being stored here.   Q: What about attracting Asian companies to Ireland? BR: Traditionally, North America has more cultural affinity with Ireland. We speak the same language and our geographical location as a virtual bridge to Europe is very beneficial. The cultural and language differences obviously pose a greater challenge in relation to Asian organisations, but there is no doubt that many of the other benefits are also available to them regarding hosting in Ireland.   Barry Rhodes CEO, INEX December 2016