Prior to March 2020, the UK’s digital infrastructure was not sponsored by any specific government department. We liaised with specific departments on specific topics, like energy and carbon or air quality. But, for the most part, we went about our jobs without most people in government understanding what it is that data centres do for this country or how they do it.
However, the UK-wide lockdown has strengthened the relationship with the Government and seen the creation of a new ‘Data Infrastructure Resilience Team’ (DIRT) within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). I wanted to give you a brief update as to our progress in this regard, and what it might mean for data centres going forward.
DCMS - The government Department for Culture, Media and Sport, who is responsible for matters involving media and communications (among other things) which is why data centres are relevant to their work.
Mid-March: Key worker status granted
When it first looked likely that movement in the UK would be restricted, 4D, together with techUK, appealed to the DCMS for key worker status. We wanted to make sure we could maintain business as usual, knowing how much our customers would depend on us as their business operations became increasingly unusual.
techUK - The industry body that represents 850 UK tech companies, and is a valuable thought-leadership resource.
This was quickly agreed and it almost seemed to be a ‘lightbulb’ moment. From that point on, the government began to realise just how much rests on the shoulders of the data centre industry.
The formation of the Data Infrastructure Resilience Team
At around the same time as key worker status was granted, the Data Infrastructure Resilience Team (DIRT) was formed within the DCMS. This exciting development could prove to be a milestone for our industry. Suddenly, there’s a sense of urgency in government to understand:
- The importance of data centres
- How we do what we do
- What, if any, government support we need
Over the next 12 months we will be having regular conversations with the Data Infrastructure Resilience Team to help answer these questions – and ask some of our own.
DIRT - The Data Infrastructure Resilience Team was established by the DCMS during the Covid-19 pandemic, and are responsible for ensuring that data centres and other infrastructure important to data communications are protected.
As Vice-Chair of techUK’s Data Centre Council, when it became clear coronavirus was going to impact everyone, I proposed the formation of a weekly ‘data centre operators’ meeting. Over the initial weeks and months of lockdown, it has been a case of ‘all hands on deck’ to answer information requests quickly and in such a way that they could be understood by people outside the industry. To achieve this, I’ve been chairing regular cross-industry meetings to coordinate our response to the pandemic and we have gained so much from working together. This has resulted in a wealth of new content, much of which is shared publicly on the techUK website for the benefit of all.
DCMS have also established a new mailbox to enable data centre operators, users and other interested stakeholders to ask questions and make observations.
Most recently, in the last few weeks of May 2020, with the help of the team at DCMS, we were able to secure a special dispensation for UK data centre engineers to be exempt from the ‘English border rules’, meaning they will not have to isolate for 14 days upon entering the UK.
We have an opportunity to have a productive dialogue with government and we’re determined to make the most of it.
What happens now?
A swift outcome of these discussions has been that the government has a better understanding of the role digital infrastructure plays in people’s lives. With that knowledge in place, the DCMS and techUK will explore:
- Whether this lack of an industry overview within government leads to missed vulnerabilities and opportunities
- Whether the industry would benefit from a closer relationship with government over the long-term
- How resilience is achieved and how the industry manages risks
- How the government could support the sector in economic terms to better enable growth
- Whether the UK business environment for data centres is sustainable and how government can support sector competitiveness
What will it mean for data centres?
This closer relationship could mean greater scrutiny of the data centre industry, however, in my opinion, this potential pitfall will be outweighed by the advantages of having a stronger voice within government.
With increased security threats, economic instability and advanced technologies like 5G on the horizon, the industry needs to work together and with government to set a global standard for performance and efficiency.
Within the space of a few months, we have achieved a great deal with this new relationship with the Data Infrastructure Resilience Team – effectively, from a standing start. As we continue developing this dialogue and exploring these issues, I believe we can bring the digital infrastructure sector to the best possible position to meet future challenges.
About 4D Data Centres
Operating since 2007, 4D Data Centres have won multiple awards and proven our reliability by never having a power outage and guaranteeing 99.999% network uptime.
We've built our reputation helping hundreds of organisations like yours leave behind reactive systems and processes while keeping pace with an ever-changing threat landscape, and our executive team have been quoted in Bloomberg, Techerati and other publications.
Our colocation, cloud, connectivity and security services are tailored to your exact business requirements, and we pride ourselves on being a people-focused data centre, consistently delivering on all 7 pillars for our customers.