With the recent launch of our new European data center, a few customers and prospects have asked us: why Amsterdam? It’s a good question — particularly for folks who aren’t customers (yet!) — because your hosting provider’s choice of data center partner can really make a difference for you and your business.
ServInt’s decision to open a European data center was based on one factor: to provide our European, African and Middle Eastern customers a hosting option closer to their customers. Europe was a natural fit both for its central location for the region and its relatively close proximity to our headquarters in Northern Virginia.
Once we decided on Europe as our next region, we cast a wide net and surveyed 14 different locations that seemed to have reputable datacenter coverage throughout Europe. Through web research alone we ended up cutting that list in half to seven. The primary factor in trimming the list was connectivity and accessibility to key upstream providers. That list of seven was: Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Paris and Stockholm.
Next, we began speaking with and visiting locations in person. The major consideration at this point in our process was still connectivity — in this case, accessibility to peering partners. Nearly all of our seven preliminary cities have a key European Internet Exchange Point (IXP). The major IXPs are LINX in London, DE-CIX in Frankfurt, AMS-IX in Amsterdam, NETNOD in Sweden and France-IX in Paris.
Peering isn’t a big deal anymore in America because the major telcos have all the market share, and in a consolidated market peering doesn’t really matter. Today in America there are only twelve Tier 1 networks left, and pretty much all Internet traffic flows through them. There was a time when dozens of fiber networks competed for market relevancy, and trading traffic at peering hubs was a way to ensure fast routes. These days the same few providers already meet and trade traffic at major Internet hubs, and the other providers utilize that to facilitate their quick transfers.
The European connectivity market, however, remains fragmented — i.e., it’s still made up of an unconsolidated web of diverse providers of varying sizes. So trading traffic between them remains relevant. In Europe, peering matters.
As we visited facilities in these seven cities in Europe, we also evaluated the availability of expansion opportunities, environmental and operational factors and more for each location.
The availability of untapped resources in a datacenter facility is an important factor to consider when choosing a new location. Is there ample excess capacity (in both power and space) for future expansion? Are the terms that lock in options on that capacity favorable? Smart negotiating includes anticipating your own growth as a webhost and ensuring that you won’t outgrow a facility soon after you sign a contract.
Of course, it was also of paramount concern that any facility we chose meet with our own strict standards for green hosting. For that, Amsterdam was particularly compelling, because they invest heavily in renewable energy and make power available from alternative sources like wind energy.
Finally, operational factors like ease of employing qualified personnel and tax burdens that might weigh down an expansion also had to be considered.
After carefully evaluating connectivity and infrastructure in each location, we whittled the list down to three: Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt.
With three good options infrastructurally and network-wise, it was time to look at the regulatory frameworks governing each location. As a US-based hosting provider, we have a regulatory framework that allows us to make our clients’ content accessible within certain legal parameters. Amsterdam has a legal framework that is analogous to US law when it comes to hosting. England and Germany do not, and big changes would need to be made to ServInt’s regulatory framework to address differences in laws there.
Regulation in the UK: England and Wales signed the Defamation Act of 1996 which makes it possible to force content off the Internet if one person simply accuses another of libel or slander.
Regulation in Germany: Germany passed the Access Impediment Act that made certain types of content broadly illegal. This law was repealed in 2011, but mostly because it was unenforceable. German legislators have undertaken great efforts to attempt to regulate the Internet and have applied a good deal of pressure on the EU to follow suit.
By the time we reached the end of our research, our choice of Amsterdam as the location for ServInt EU and our newest European data center was self evident. It won out on all counts: Connectivity, Infrastructure, and Regulation.
Unless you are considering opening your own European datacenter, you might not think this level of granularity is important to you as a hosting customer, but it should be. Understanding the business partnerships, decisions and strategic moves hosting providers make–and knowing that the decisions are born out of wisdom and research, and that the company is in control of its destiny–will help you make informed decisions when choosing a provider.
Photo by Andrew Black