AI Data Centres. Can a District become a Category Leader?

Written by Jonathan Simnett

London is the largest of the FLAP (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris) data centre markets. Apparently that’s because of the U.K.’s leadership in public cloud infrastructure adoption. 

Even in this mature market things are changing. Findings from Structure Research indicate that hyperscale data centre offerings currently account for 48 percent of the London market, this is projected to grow to 66 percent by 2027. 

But that’s more of `better` in an existing Category. Yet we already think we are at a Category-defining moment. Things are about to become `different`. 

Phoenix’ arising

As we stare from the upper stories of our building across North West London and towards the iconic Wembley arch (for non-UK readers that‘s an architectural feature that defines our national soccer stadium) something is stirring in the district of Park Royal

Amongst the ramshackle collection of factories, light industrial units and warehouses dating back to the 1930s, that composes this ironically-named district, shiny new behemoths are arising phoenix-like from the ashes of post-industrial decay.

Surrounded by red-lit tower cranes, it’s the latest data centres going up in this unlikely spot for such a cluster. Already it has two Equinix sites along with data centres from Ark, Options, Colt and others and dedicated facilities for companies including VMware and Zurich Assurance. Vantage Data Centers is the latest arrival, recently announcing it’s to develop a new $600 million 48MW data centre in the area. 

Green and mean

We’re excited that some of these will be providing waste heat to a district heating system in West London which will warm up to 10,000 new homes.

But what’s exciting us even more is joining them soon will be the game changing data centre daddy that’s going to add the `different` to all the `more` and `better` that’s been going on in this part of North Acton.

Action in Acton

Over the next three years, Microsoft will spend £2.5 billion ($3.2bn) on a UK AI initiative, much of it at this site. It‘s not just part of the single largest investment by Microsoft in its 40-year history in the country, it’s the first explicit example of a new Category – an AI-focussed data centre – that will sit at the centre of an ecosystem helping to meet the exploding demand for AI-specific compute power. 

As part of this move, Microsoft has promised to make a multi-million-pound investment to train one million people with the skills they need to build and work with AI and extend its Accelerating Foundation Models Research (AFMR) program to include prioritized access to GPUs for the UK’s science and research community. 

Chips are down

Underpinning all this is Microsoft’s ability to do this by bringing more than 20,000 of the most advanced and rare AI GPU chips to the UK by 2026. GPUs that it can get hold of when others can’t.

So, after decades of build outs of data centres that provided outsourced processing power, colocation, and, eventually supported the move to web services – but that were essentially `dumb processing` attached to telecommunications `dumb pipes`- we are seeing something special  – and `different` – emerging.  

Classic Category play

A concerted attempt to drive a new paradigm in computing by building both the supporting infrastructure and the ecosystem. This is a classic Category play. Congratulations to Microsoft on their vision and commitment.

Will this start a trend?  Will Park Royal become the epicentre of European AI data centres? Will the existing data centres make the leap to `different`?  Can a District become a Category Leader? We think so, but watch this space.

Find more discussion on Microsoft’s Category defining move and many other contentious Category issues on The Difference Engine podcast at 

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