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France Data Centre Market: A Tour De Force in the Global Landscape

Thu 18 May 2023

The data centre market in France is hot – not just in the summertime, but year-round, and for the foreseeable future. Increases in demand in urban and rural markets are driving growth, as well as innovation.

Paris: The Data Centre Hub of France

Much of the data centre activity in France has been centred in Paris, making it one of the top markets in the EU and the world. Paris has a rather mature ecosystem, with investment kicking off in 1998 after the demonopolization of France Telecom. This opened up the market, inviting domestic and foreign investment in telecom infrastructure, just in time for the construction of modernised data centres.

Paris is home to a number of data-heavy industries, including FinTech, fashion, aeronautics, healthcare, and media. Additionally, it is home to more than 8,000 startups – including the world’s largest startup campus, Station F.

The demands of these industries for high data usage, fast connectivity, and emerging technologies helped to make Paris one of the big five data centre markets – the ‘P’ in FLAP-D (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Dublin).

Sustainability is also becoming a focus in Paris and other major cities. With the climate crisis front and center, the need for green data centres that prioritise energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources is on the rise. Major tech companies are leading the way, with the likes of OVHcloud and Scaleway spearheading initiatives to build more sustainable data centres, reducing the industry’s carbon footprint and aligning with France’s commitment to sustainability.

Currently, Paris is home to 117 data centres, 347 service providers, and 21 network fabrics. However, as demand increases throughout the country, investment in Tier II and III markets is projected to grow exponentially over the next several years.

Beyond Paris: The Urban Data Centre Surge

Outside of Paris, investments have been strong in other urban centres, including Marseille, Lyon, Lille, and Strasbourg. These cities feature excellent connectivity and rich, redundant ecosystems to help data centre providers eliminate downtime and provide reliable, low-latency services to customers.

Marseille was identified at one time as the fastest-growing data centre market in all of Europe. The city has a geographic advantage as a port city, allowing service providers to access submarine cables for ultra-low latency connectivity to attractive international destinations like Singapore.

“Overnight, almost, Marseille moved from a telecom-transit city to a content city,” said Fabrice Coquio, President of Interxion France, which has a number of data centres in the country.

The Edge Evolution: Empowering Rural France

Demand for data centre services doesn’t end at the borders of urban, or even suburban centres. An increasingly sophisticated user base demands faster connectivity, low latency, and higher bandwidth regardless of where they are physically located. This has led to greater interest in edge data centres at locations throughout France.

Stratosfair, a data centre startup, currently has two locations in Brittany – one in Pontivy, and another in Lanester. The company intends to have five operational data centres in the region soon, all operating on 100% renewable energy.

Spanish towerco Cellnex has been working with Bouygues Telecom to accelerate adoption of 5G at the edge throughout France. A €1 billion deal between Cellnex and Bouygues is expected to result in a fibre optic network of more than 31,500 km and 14,000 sites under management by 2027.

Innovation Investment: Pioneering the Future of Data Centres in France

More than US$1.2 billion is invested in the French data centre industry every year – driving eight times additional investment in related hardware, according to the France Datacenter Association (Association de référence de la filière datacenter en France).

Some of this investment is going to fund research into innovative solutions for common data centre issues. For example, the Prosoluce data centre in Occitanie will use a system of hyperventilation for cooling.

With hyperventilation, rapid air pulses evacuate heat consistently, helping to maintain an optimal temperature for server equipment. This, combined with adiabatic system or pulsing air over water-soaked fabric will improve air quality, while photovoltaic panels will gather solar energy for use at the facility. Additionally, excess heat will be recycled for use in warming the offices of company headquarters, which will be located onsite.

Another French startup, Denv-R, is looking to install floating data centres in France. However, these are not the ones that have been seen in Singapore, where data centres are built on docks in the bay, nor the underwater data centres that Microsoft has been testing off the coast of Scotland.

Denv-R is planning to create a network of floating data centres on barges, located on rivers near urban centres. This could capitalise on a geographic constant that cities were originally founded on or near large rivers because they were the original transportation centers before motorised vehicles. It also solves part of the expense of constructing data centres in urban areas, as land is often quite expensive, while rivers are plentiful.

Regulatory Catalysts: Safeguarding Data and Privacy in France

The France Data Protection Act, along with the GDPR, is driving data centre growth. Because it requires businesses to physically retain information within the borders of the country, businesses must invest in infrastructure that will support data localisation. Additionally, the France Data Protection Act requires businesses to comply with data breach notifications, appoint a data protection officer, and provide reports that show data storage, access, processing activities, and more.

The data regulatory environment in France stems from an effort to protect the privacy of French citizens, taking the provisions of GDPR and pushing them further – requiring businesses to take additional steps and invest more resources into data protection.

While the global data centre market is heating up, France is in a unique position. A combination of an increasingly digitised and sophisticated user base, with a vibrant ecosystem of established businesses and startups, and the investors to support it, have made France one of the emerging markets in the global data centre market.

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