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With its small land area, lack of natural resources and relatively small population of just over 5m, it is hard to imagine Singapore as one of the top locations in the Asia Pacific region for establishing data centers.

According to a recent Asia-Pacific Data Center Index published by IDC though, the small nation state is listed at the number two spot out of 13 countries for its suitability for new and outsourced data centers.

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) - the country’s telecommunications regulator - is not content to rest on its laurel, however. Since 2010, it has embarked on an ambitious project to set up a data center park (DCP) envisioned to house at least half a dozen new data centers in the Western part of Singapore.

Designing the data center park
The stated objective of the DCP is to attract more multinational corporations and enterprises to establish their headquarters and data centers in Singapore, says the IDA. This would entrench the country as an infocomm and media hub, and in turn attract world-class internet and media companies to host their content and services in Singapore.

With this in mind, the proposed DCP will see an area of about 13 ha being set aside for the building of six to eight data center buildings, enough for up to 105,000 sq m of rackable space. In addition, the park’s infrastructure will support fully redundant and resilient configurations, including dual power feeds, redundant sources of cooling and network path diversity.

The IDA is currently preparing the design specifications on the provision of major services in the DCP, which is understood to include a purpose-built and dedicated on-site power plant as a source of power supply that can be delivered with minimum transmission losses.

New space for data centers is limited in land-scarce Singapore, according to Mayank Kapoor, an industry principal of Data Center and Cloud Computing at management consultant firm Frost & Sullivan. The ample space allotted to the DCP will be good news for operators looking to establish new data centers in Singapore.

The challenges
It would be unreasonable to expect a project the size of the DCP to be without challenges.

According to Simon Piff, associate VP of Enterprise Infrastructure Research at IDC, one challenge pertains to the training of an indigenous workforce to meet the demands of the vibrant data center market. While data centers are not inherently manpower intensive, they do require a specialized repertoire of skills that fresh graduates typically do not possess. “HR is a huge component of running these [data centers],” he says.

The shortage of qualified manpower is certainly something that Clement Goh, the managing director for South Asia at Equinix, grapples with. The data center operator has two data centers in Singapore with one more scheduled to open in the second half of 2014.

According to Goh, the company has taken to hiring IT employees and training them in-house to take on electrical and mechanical functions, and vice versa.

Since operators in the DCP will essentially be neighbors with similar power and connectivity options, the onus is on individual operators to put together a clear strategy to differentiate their offerings without resorting to price cuts. This may be challenging as they will probably be working with the same price overheads and tax incentives.

It should also be noted that the completion date for the DCP had been shifted back several times. Originally slated to be ready in 2013, the latest official word is that operations will begin at the beginning of 2016. While not necessarily detrimental given the increasing data center demand, not having a firm timeframe may discourage data center operators from signing up.

The road ahead
As the competition intensifies in the Asia region, there is no doubt that the upcoming DCP will offer additional options for new data center operators looking to set up shop in Singapore, or for existing players to grow.

“The Singapore Data Centre Park will re-affirm Singapore’s commitment to the industry,” says Matthew Kong, the Singapore country manager for Emerson Network Power, “[This] is critical given that neighbouring countries have been ramping up their efforts to establish themselves as a hub as well.”

For now, there is evidence that work towards the realization of the DCP continues steadily. Certainly, at least one industry player approached for this report declined to comment, citing ongoing talks on this topic as the reason. “There are definitely those who are in advanced stages of planning in the DCP,” affirmed Kapoor.