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Backbone of the Internet of Things Coming to Korea
Infrastructure Expansion
Backbone of the Internet of Things Coming to Korea
  • By Matthew Weigand
  • June 4, 2015, 07:15
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LEDs are all that is visible of a server rack in Digital Realty's data center in Singapore.
LEDs are all that is visible of a server rack in Digital Realty's data center in Singapore.

 

Three levels of electrical generators ensure that the computing equipment remains online even in the event of a city-wide power outage at Digital Realty's data center in Singapore.
Three levels of electrical generators ensure that the computing equipment remains online even in the event of a city-wide power outage at Digital Realty's data center in Singapore.

 

“Yes, absolutely we're eyeing Korea,” says Daryl Dunbar, managing director of Asia Pacific for Digital Realty, in the conference room of the company's oldest and largest Asia Pacific data center in Singapore. He goes on to explain that it is a simple choice, due to the number and amount of customers from South Korea that they already serve in their existing data centers throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia Pacific. He declines to name many specific customers directly for security reasons, but says that their existing relationships have given them good market intelligence about possibilities in the country, and they are hopeful to expand their offerings to the Land of the Morning Calm.

Digital Realty is one of those companies that you don't often hear about, but is essential to modern civilization. They describe themselves as a real estate company, but the real estate that they sell houses the nerve centers of multinational banks, international corporations, and the most robust of online services. They make data centers for companies that need at least 20 racks, or usually entire rooms, of the latest and greatest in server hardware humming along without ever a hitch happening to them. They are the house in which “The Cloud” lives; the great Internet album where all the cat pictures are stored; the vault in which all that digital currency resides. And they are the backbone of the coming Internet of Things revolution.

“The Internet of Things is all about a connected world; its all about connectivity,” says Daryl. “From our perspective, even if every device is talking to every other device, there're still databases, servers, services, platforms that have to exist to service the Internet of Things communicating from machine to machine. And so that is going to continue to live in data centers.”

[[{"fid":"11727","view_mode":"body_image_right","fields":{"format":"body_image_right","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"A nondescript hallway belies the computing power accessible through the locked doors on either side in Digital Realty's data center in Singapore.","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"A nondescript hallway belies the computing power accessible through the locked doors on either side in Digital Realty's data center in Singapore.","height":819,"width":550,"class":"media-element file-body-image-right"}}]]The company has 130 data centers around the globe that they are currently operating. While only eight of those are active in the Asia Pacific region, the number is rapidly increasing. They are currently running sites in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, and also have a location in Osaka, Japan under development. And they brought BusinessKorea to visit them in Singapore on the occasion of opening a new data center on the other side of the island.

The company has both built data centers from scratch and repurposed existing buildings. For instance, they recently opened up a new data center in London, the U.K., that they built from the ground up. And the new data center that they opened in Singapore was previously a re-purposed paper storage building. The 177,000 square foot building has “over four floors, high ceilings, reinforced flooring. It just screamed perfect for us,” says Dunbar. He says that the company saved a lot of time refurbishing the existing building than they would have spent creating something from scratch. And it only cost them 200 million Singapore dollars (US$148 million). Opening this new facility provides about 50 percent more premium data center real estate that they can offer, since their existing facility, the oldest in the Asia Pacific region, is 370,000 square feet on 7 floors.

The company would like to invest in similar projects in the Korean market as well. “We are continuing to invest in the region as a whole,” Daryl says, “and I think that Korea is a very important part of that solution.” He also emphasizes that the company will be a good opportunity for Korean investors. He points out that Digital Realty was set up as a “Real Estate Investment Trust” in the U.S., and so their primary goal has always been to accept money from investors and return tasty dividends. “We have always returned in excess of 100 percent of our net operating profits to our shareholders,” Daryl says.

The specific size and scope of a possible project in Korea is quite variable, too, depending on the needs of Digital Realty's customers in the region. The company approaches the design of each data center from a modular perspective, allowing them to walk the fine line between building too much and building too little at once. For instance, their older data center in Singapore is 7 floors; the first floor is for administration, and the other 6 floors are vertically-stacked data centers one on top of another. Each floor contains several halls, which can be rented out entirely or by the 20-rack row to discerning companies. However, depending on the climate of the Korean market, Digital Realty could easily build bigger or smaller. “You can't take a product out of North America and drop it wherever and have it function exactly the same,” Daryl explains. “It has to change, has to be engineered, has to be designed. We do it modularly. We don't start from scratch every time, but adjust our modular design for specific locations and customer needs.”

“Why we wanted to have you visit here is to explain that we are a connected world,” says Jihann Pedersen, Asia Pacific marketing director for Digital Realty, continuing, “We have Korean multinationals that are in facilities of ours, data centers of ours in the U.S.” She goes on to explain, “We have multinationals that are dependent on global expansion to appease their digital content and cloud needs.” The company's consideration of the Korean market is a simple desire to appeal more to their customers, both inside and outside of Korea. “The opportunity for us to do business in this region is still enormous,” says Daryl Dunbar. “We've done competitive market analysis location by location.” They are always looking to see where the market in general is demanding more infrastructure. And they believe that South Korea is one of those new markets.