After years of playing a supporting role, France is emerging as a leading player in data center growth in Europe. Digital Realty is driving that trend with new data center campuses in Paris and Marseille, pursuing a vision of major markets in the North and South of France.
Both projects build upon Digital Realty’s $8 billion acquisition of Interxion in 2019, one of the leading players in the European colocation and interconnection services. And both feature innovative re-use of existing industrial and military facilities. The Paris campus is being built at a former Airbus helicopter plant, while the Marseilles project is housed in a former submarine base.
“France is the only country in Europe, with two major markets in Paris and Marseille,” Fabrice Coquio, Interxion France Managing Director. “Paris will always remain Paris. But we see clearly that some of our customers are re-engineering their cloud platforms and networks, shifting their focus south.”
Paris is a major global city and business center, and is the P in the “FLAP” roadmap for hyperscale data center development in Europe, along with Frankfurt, London and Amsterdam (and some would add Dublin). But not all markets have grown at equivalent rates.
“The Paris market was a bit of a laggard the past three years compared to London, Holland, and Germany,” said Coquio.
Meanwhile, over the past five years Marseilles has emerged as an important gateway to Africa and the Middle East, serving as the landing point for multiple subsea cables. A cross-border expansion by Germany’s DE-CIX helped boost the connectivity ecosystem of Marseilles, which sits on the Mediterranean coastline.
Here’s a look at how Digital Realty is approaching its strategy in these two markets.
Marseilles: Subsea Super-Hub
Last week Digital Realty announced the opening of the first phase of Interxion’s MRS3, the company’s third data center in Marseille, which is the leading example of how subsea cables are driving the emergence of new data center markets. The Marseilles campus sits at the heart of the global subsea cable network, with 14 cables currently landing in Marseille and five to 10 additional cables expected to land within the next five years.
Given Marseilles growing strategic importance, it was a key asset in Digital Realty’s $8.4 billion acquisition of Interxion, dramatically expanding its presence in European colocation and interconnection with the addition of more than 50 data centers in 11 countries.
Interxion was an early mover in Marseilles, building MRS1 in an acquired telecom data center and MRS 2 in a converted warehouse. These
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The MRS3 data center is housed in a former World War II German submarine base known as Martha. The long-abandoned building was built like a bunker to withstand Allied bombing, with terraced reinforced concrete walls with a thickness of 5.5 meters (17 feet), and 12-meter (36 foot) exterior walls.
The result is a unique structure that houses a 16.5-megawatt data center and approximately 7,100 square meters (76,000 square feet) of fully equipped IT space to be delivered in three stages. This first phase, comprising approximately 2,300 square meters (25,000 square feet), will be followed by two additional phases scheduled for delivery during 2021.
“Given the scale of the campus, this project has been a formidable undertaking, transforming the site into a best-in-class, modern data center purpose-built to provide our customers with the digital infrastructure requirements to scale at the speed and bandwidth they need. Thanks to the support of the local public authorities and the enthusiasm of our customers, Marseille has grown to be the world’s ninth-largest Internet hub. Our goal is now to see the city enter the top five within the next three years.”
“With over 150 network service providers, Interxion’s Marseille campus has established itself as one of the world’s leading digital hubs for intercontinental data traffic,” said David Ruberg, Chief Executive Officer of Interxion, a Digital Realty company. “The opening of MRS3 will offer new and existing customers expanded access to the vibrant community in Marseille, including numerous connectivity providers, digital media and cloud segments along with local as well as global enterprises.”
Paris: Data Center in the Round
In April, Digital Realty began a major expansion project in Paris. Its new Interxion Paris Digital Park campus can support up to 85 megawatts of power, housing four data centers spanning 40,000 square meters of technical space (430,000 SF), all housed inside a rounded exterior frame.
“In France this campus is unique,” said Coquio. “It’s the largest data center space in Paris. It’s actually a campus of four data centers, each being considerable in size. This shape of a circle is actually a new design in data centers. Within the circle you find four data centers, with an exoskeleton surrounding the edge of the project. This helps with the look and feel and with noise reduction, particularly when we are so close to other buildings.”
The first data center on the site will be PAR8, Interxion’s eighth data center in Paris, which upon completion will deliver 9,600 square meters (103,000 SF) of technical space and 19 MW of customer available power. The first phase 3,200 square meters (34,500 SF) is scheduled to open in late 2021.
The project is being built on a former Airbus helicopter plant, which featured 82 buildings housing 1,200 workers across the 70,000 square meter property. Digital Realty will preserve 10 percent of the site for garden space, and house generators and other heavy equipment on the roof rather than an equipment yard.
“Paris is one of the densest cities in the world, and finding land or getting authorization to land a data center in such a dense area was not that easy,” said Coquio. “This northeast part of Paris has a very dense concentration of data centers, including five for Interxion. This is also the highest concentration of backbones in the Paris area. You have all the big backbones following the AI highway – all very close to our existing data centers.”