It is a building of superlatives: Since last Tuesday, 1,223 truckloads of concrete and 1,300 tons of steel stand completed in Lupfig, Aargau – cast in the shape of Switzerland’s most high-performance data center and Boasting an installed power capacity of 10 megawatts. Just 368 days have passed since the cornerstone ceremony.
The grand opening, attended by around 300 guests, was as extraordinary as the data center itself. Representatives from the global high-tech industry rubbed shoulders with people from regional businesses and local politicians under the party tent. Franz Grüter, Chairman of the Board of Green, expressed his gratitude to everybody who helped complete the new building in record time, including “many regional SMEs”. This data center was constructed in response to demand for reliable, secure locations from customers both inside and outside Switzerland.
Finance Minister Guy Parmelin made a special trip from Bern to attend the event. “It is with great pleasure and pride that I open this data center,” he called out to those in attendance. Switzerland is already well-positioned in terms of its data infrastructure and the new building will help make it even better. According to the Finance Minister, Green’s new data center opening proves “that our country has a lot of space for outstanding achievements and promising projects.” Parmelin also mentioned the growing importance of data. In the future, data will become “one of the most important commodities” for the Swiss economy and science.
Grüter and Parmelin are both right: The past ten years have seen our country evolve into an important data hub. Some studies even describe Switzerland as the country with the second-highest density of data centers in Europe. According to Deloitte, between CHF 200 and 400 million are being invested in the construction of new data centers every year. This is attributable to both domestic demand but also the fact that many foreign companies have discovered Switzerland as a secure, reliable location for their data. Events such as the Snowden affair and even industrial espionage show time and again that the precise location of data is vitally important. Anybody who values secure data storage, whether private Internet users or a company, appreciates the advantages offered by Switzerland. This is particularly obvious with respect to patient records and digital assets, like cryptocurrencies. In the financial industry, however, regulations actually require that certain data be stored in Switzerland. New possibilities for cloud applications are also emerging wherever intellectual property plays a major role - such as in the pharmaceutical industry or in chemical and biological research.
Until recently, however, there was still a blind spot in the digital infrastructure: big, international cloud providers did not have any of their own infrastructure in Switzerland. Whoever entrusted their data to the “data clouds” of companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Alibaba had to accept the fact that it was being stored or processed outside Switzerland.
“Zurich West 3” now closes this gap. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung daily newspaper just recently described this in its article entitled “The big leap into the cloud”. Green’s newest data center is complete and designed to meet the extremely stringent requirements of global cloud providers. Compared to conventional data centers, designing this new data center called for a radically different approach. Data center capacity is no longer calculated in terms of square meters, rather megawatts. High power density and swift scalability are what counts: Given the cloud’s rapid growth, capacities might need to be doubled or even increased ten-fold within a short space of time! Cloud providers bring truckloads of their own equipment to the data center and arrange it in line with their own, global practices.
Now that the big cloud providers have a home for the data, the “data cloud” and its ever-increasing potential is now shifting closer to the Swiss economy. The traditional advantages offered by Switzerland as a data location are now being enhanced by the nearly limitless opportunities offered by the cloud. No day passes by without the big cloud providers enabling new, improved services. Online data storage, which formed the core of cloud offerings more than ten years ago, has since been replaced by services. Publishing complex websites in just two clicks, launching a global marketing campaign, performing complicated big-data calculations: all of this has become much simpler and less expensive thanks to the big global clouds. In principle, every company can access public clouds via a direct connection. There are also private clouds, which are isolated and only open to a limited group of users. Private clouds make sense for regulated companies, their suppliers and customers – such as IT system integrators – or even for entire industries like the healthcare sector. Growth in this area is particularly strong in Switzerland, since it marks an important step on the path to the cloud.
With its new “Zurich West 3” data center, Green provides a basic infrastructure for the various types of clouds and makes it possible to network them. The company clearly focuses on “Swissness” in the process. Firstly, all data is physically located at its high-security data centers in Lupfig AG and Zurich. Secondly, the company is working together with partners to build a network of secure, trustworthy “Made in Switzerland” cloud services. This will open up new, attractive, high-quality outsourcing options for Swiss businesses – from SMEs to multinationals. Things that previously required an in-house IT department will now become affordable, even for small businesses.
This quantum leap in the country’s digital infrastructure will also benefit consumers through the creation of a new range of “Hosted in Switzerland” cloud services. Soon, every Internet user will be able to consciously decide to keep their own data secure and protected in accordance with Swiss data protection provisions.
Roger Süess has been at the helm of Green as its CEO since July 1. He had previously worked at UBS where he was in charge of the global cloud rollout. At the Swiss Bankers Association, he advised the working group that drew up a non-binding set of guidelines governing the use of cloud applications.