Interxion’s PAR7 data center in La Courneuve, Paris, is not to close after all. After protesters complained it is too noisy, a court initially ordered it to close - but last week, the case was re-examined and the court found that the facility is operating within official limits fater all.
It’s not a surprising result. The data center cost €132 million and has been operating for three years. It was welcomed by the local authority and Interxion is an experienced data center operator which seems to have done all the right impact studies. But the protesters - who live on the same street - won’t be happy. And they won’t be the last to protest at data centers, as “edge” data centers become more important.
Failure at the planning stage?
There have been many times when local protesters have objected to plans for data centers. In Middletown Delaware, there are protests about a proposed 40MW facility which would also have a 52.5MW natural gas powered electricity generation plant on the same site.
Not far away, at the University of Delaware, a $1 billion plan to build a data center with a much bigger co-generation plant was rejected after local objections.
But these objections were won or lost at the planning stage. Data centers proposed by Amazon and Facebook in numerous locations have faced similar protests before they were built, and some others may have had to move or change to meet local demands.
The Interxion protest was different, in that it went against a data center that has actually been in operation for three years. The court initially had sufficient doubts about the original planning consultation, to withdraw the license to operate while it was re-examined.
There are plenty of reasons why most data centers don’t need to fear this happening. Most local planning processes are slow - in part, to make sure they are thorough enough to avoid this sort of thing happening, But I wouldn’t rule out a repetition elsewhere: local authorities anxious to get businesses into their town can be tempted to rush the planning process, so other data centers may be vulnerable.
Data centers are getting closer
And data centers are getting closer to people. As more people use mobile data and more objects are attached to the Internet of Things, there is a growing need for so-called “edge” data centers, which provide the service to those end-users and devices. Edge data centers have to be near the people they serve. They will be built in suburbs and small towns, and contain the systems which deliver Netflix or mobile phone data services, or form local nerve centers for smart transport networks.
So, data centers can’t always be out-of-sight. People will have to be aware of them, and will have to learn to live with them.
Data centers will also need to adapt to this relationship. Developments like fuel cells will reduce the need for noisy cooling and power systems and could make data centers into better neighbors. Efforts to push them into conventional offices, or even to use them to supplement heating in homes could gather momentum.
The saga of Interxion in Paris is a one-off event, but the data center industry needs to take note of it.
A version of this article appeared on Green Data Center News.