The UK is missing out on the financial opportunities of building regional communication exchanges, and should get over ingrained notions that such places are "dark, satanic mills".
That's according to John Souter, CEO of London Internet Exchange (LINX), which currently contributes handles around 80 percent of the entire UK's internet data flow from an enormous Telehouse data centre in London's docklands. Amazon Web Services, BSkyB and Virgn Media count among the facility's many users
Souter told Computing that it would be wise for UK entrepreneurs to begin recognising the potential of setting up communications exchanges elsewhere in the UK, but that currently they are viewed "with suspicion - as dark, satanic mills".
Souter said he believed it is largely power use and environmental issues discouraging a wider use of regional exchanges, but that people ought to reconsider, for technical reasons if nothing else.
"We've been very successful in London, and it's the case that the UK is very, very London-centric," said Souter.
"The majority of data passes through London, and this cluster of buildings [Telehouse]. But the disadvantage of that is, what happens if something goes wrong?" Souter asked.
Souter asserted that if providers bring all their content caches to London, "they just have to be massive to service a country of [what will soon be] 70m service-using people". This, he said, directly disadvantaged smaller companies being able to offer robust web services.
"So gradually it will become more economical to put caches round the country. There's the logic for another internet exchange," he said.
"In my dream, in the long term, talking five to ten years now, the demand for spaces like [Telehouse] London simply won't be able to service it. You can see already the physical limits of this site - we're having to build upwards. So the next building will be even more exotic than this one because there's quite an exotic challenge there. You're building upwards instead of just letting it radiate to the sky, which is what a data centre builder typically does."
Souter said he could be "quite rude, off the record", about local government attitudes towards building local comms exchanges, but summarised their behaviour as "a missed opportunity".
"People haven't seen that the destiny of this country very much hinges on its digital infrastructure, and that it's a talent pool of people," he said.
"We're clearly never going to be a world shipbuilder again. And if you accept that, and accept that our future will be more like what you see here, then you would have thought it would make sense for people to have more of a vision about that."
But Souter asserted it is not all negative - LINX itself is successfully branching out into Scotland, near Edinburgh, and the west midlands is next.
"That's bigger than some eastern european countries, but funnily enough, it's a data centre desert," he said. Souter also flagged up Manchester as a "wonderfully rich scene" now, but repeated that he is "unabashed about the idea that the opportunities are being missed".
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