Saudi telecommunications provider stc has switched on two Tier III data centers in Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah and Al-Madina, with a third in Riyadh set to come online at an unspecified date.

The 150 prefabricated modules came at a cost of a billion Saudi Arabian riyal ($266.6 million), offering 10.8MW of critical power, expandable to 16.8MW - presumably when the Riyadh facility is completed.

Instead of going the traditional route and either buying or building a shell building and fitting it out with equipment, the company installed the data centers in modules, each with the IT infrastructure, thermal management and power it needs to operate independently.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
– Thinkstock

Less oil, more digital services

The company is already working on expanding its footprint and is gradually rolling out more of the modules, planning on increasing its capacity to 40.8MW of critical power across four more data centers.

Using modules makes sense when the potential for growth is unknown and decreases the need for appropriate real estate, power and thermal infrastructure - and in a country like Saudi Arabia, comprising 95 percent of desert, this is an obvious advantage.

The company says it is hoping to help boost the country’s digital services market in line with the National Transformation Programme 2020 and Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision - where it will diversify its revenue sources to decrease its reliance on oil. The country remains the world’s largest exporter of petroleum, and the shift towards more renewable energy use poses a potential threat to its economy unless it branches out.

Some foreign businesses steer clear of Saudi Arabia due to the country’s complicated geopolitical position in the world - more so still after the murder of Washington Post columnist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey in 2018.

Part of the 2030 vision set out by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is to become more self-sustaining, encouraging local activity and employment.

To this end, the company says it wants to provide the country’s network and data center offering for retail and hyperscale customers, with the efficiencies that come with outsourced infrastructure in terms of scalability and reduced latency; as well as helping to increase the availability of cloud, AI and automation services across the country.

Nasser Al-Nasser, CEO of stc, said that a $500m deal struck with Alibaba and eWTP, in addition to the investment in these data centers, “will enable the next step in digital services to be delivered throughout the Kingdom," adding that “this first milestone achievement is only the beginning.”