Brexit and Beyond: The Impact on the UK’s Data Center Industry


March 5, 2024 - 10 min read

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Pre-Brexit: Data Center Industry Overview

The United Kingdom stood at the forefront of the global information movement, experiencing a staggering 30-fold surge in data flows over the decade 2005–2015. Prior to Brexit, the UK boasted the largest data center market in Europe, with a valuation of over GBP 73 billion, according to the Data & Marketing Association. Notably, more than three-quarters of data transfers originating in the UK were conducted within European Union member states at the time.


Regulatory Challenges and Changes

Evolving Legal Frameworks

The most pressing concern for businesses and organizations located in the UK and the EU and serving customers in both areas was whether the so-called “adequacy” would be mutually granted. This point was critical because the adequacy decision would allow for the free flow of personal data from the European Economic Area (EEA) to the United Kingdom and the other way around, without additional legal requirements or safeguards such as Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) or Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs).

That being said, had the authorities failed to reach an agreement after Brexit, business entities would have needed to reconfigure their operations, move them elsewhere, or shut them down altogether. While the British government made the first step and recognized the EEA region as an adequate destination back in 2018 with the passing of the UK Data Protection Act, European Union officials formally confirmed the UK’s eligibility three years later—on June 28, 2021.

Compliance Strategies

In spite of the departure from the European Union, the UK took on an obligation to proceed with strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance. Moreover, organizations that engage in certain types of processing activities are mandated to designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO) to oversee compliance with post-Brexit data protection legislation.

As the regulatory landscape around data management may evolve and new agreements or arrangements may be put in place, the best compliance strategy is to remain proactive at all times. We highly recommend that you continuously monitor the latest guidance and directives from relevant authorities for the most up-to-date information on data transfers between the EEA and the UK.

Talent and Skills Migration Challenges

Skilled Workforce Landscape Pre-Brexit

According to Nesta’s calculations, the digital industry was instrumental in bolstering the UK economy, contributing an estimated GBP 160 billion and sustaining over 1.5 million jobs. Notably, on the verge of Brexit, 12% of those jobs were concentrated in the domains of data management and analytics solutions.

Post-Brexit Talent Migration Patterns

Fast-forward to the present day, there has been a notable rise in skills migration and job searches targeting opportunities in Britain from overseas. This trend is, in part, attributed to the post-Brexit adjustments in work visa regulations for non-European Union (EU) nationals, as indicated by data from the recruitment website Indeed.

In June 2023, a remarkable 5.5% of searches for British employment on Indeed’s platform originated from prospective candidates outside the country. This marks an increase from the 4.4% recorded a year prior and surpasses the average of 3.6% observed between 2017 and 2019.

Indeed’s Director of Research for EMEA emphasized that this surge underscores a heightened interest from non-EU applicants in higher-skilled roles, particularly in areas such as software development. The shift signifies a departure from the earlier dominance of lower-skilled positions that were typically filled by European workers before Britain quit the EU in January 2020.

Global Partnerships and Market Dynamics

Interviewed by the Financial Times, major players like Dell and Hyatt shared that they were gearing up for potential changes on the horizon due to all the buzz revolving around the UK’s quest for adequacy status, mentioned above. Dell was strategically crafting business continuity plans while Hyatt contemplated the appointment of a new lead officer to navigate evolving rules.

At the same time, telecom market leader BT was actively examining the possibility of establishing a fresh data protection base on European soil. Meanwhile, UK banking heavyweights, including the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), were in the midst of rethinking their data management routine. Despite RBS’s primary focus on the UK, the bank was trying to ensure its European customer base would not be left in the lurch, diligently exploring diverse alternatives for uninterrupted service both locally and across the continent.

Luckily, these businesses’ worst fears did not play out. In 2020, six months after Brexit, Bloomberg reported that the UK data center industry had actually grown, and the country managed to preserve its leading data colocation positions among European clientele—mainly thanks to London’s status as a global financial powerhouse. There were, however, some negative consequences as well. Following Brexit, the United Kingdom lost its right to host a data center backing up military intel obtained as part of the European Union’s satellite program called Galileo. As per Politico, the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority also had to be relocated.

As of 2024, the ongoing consequences of the Russia-Ukraine war are rippling through the energy sector, causing a notable surge in costs. This has compelled service providers to actively explore alternative measures to mitigate the escalating operational expenses. Concurrently, the steep rise in energy prices has prompted a strategic consolidation of data centers across the United Kingdom, with some opting for nearshoring to Dublin, Information Services Group (ISG) says.

In the face of this market turbulence and a drive to curtail expenses, a noteworthy trend is emerging among enterprises in the region. Some are strategically shifting away from established service providers and turning towards smaller, specialized entities to meet their evolving cloud transformation needs.

Security Challenges in the Post-Brexit-Era Data Management

Geopolitical Influences on Cybersecurity

The soaring energy prices are not the only adverse effect inflicted by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine on the UK.

In the National Cyber Security Centre’s Annual Review 2023, the UK’s cyber chief has communicated that the threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure remains both enduring and significant. This assertion comes in light of a surge in activities orchestrated by state-aligned groups, a noticeable increase in aggressive cyber maneuvers, and the persistent challenges posed by evolving geopolitical scenarios. The statement underscores the heightened importance of bolstering defenses to safeguard the integrity and resilience of the UK’s most vital infrastructure in the face of these escalating cyber threats.

Apart from the Russian Federation, China and Iran are also expressing hostile intentions (as well as acting on them). As the NCSC stresses, the Internet connectivity sector is at a heightened risk and UK data center operators and residents need to stay vigilant now more than ever.

Resilience and Incident Response

So how do you stay vigilant in these fast-changing times? Here are some essential tips we at Vodworks prepared for the UK firms involved in providing and receiving data center services, taking into account the persistent threats of ransomware, LLMs generating fabricated content, hyper-realistic bots facilitating disinformation, and the advancement of deepfake campaigns:

  1. Establish comprehensive security protocols to safeguard against ransomware attacks. Regularly update and patch software and systems to address vulnerabilities.
  2. Regularly back up critical data and ensure that disaster recovery plans are in place. This ensures the ability to restore operations swiftly in case of a ransomware incident.
  3. Conduct regular cybersecurity training for employees to recognize and avoid phishing attempts, which are often used as an entry point for ransomware attacks.
  4. Enforce multi-factor authentication for access to sensitive data management systems. This adds an extra layer of protection, mitigating the risk of unauthorized access.
  5. Deploy advanced threat detection systems capable of identifying and mitigating the activities of LLMs (Large Language Models) generating fabricated content.
  6. Implement mechanisms to verify the authenticity of content, particularly in communication channels. This can help counter disinformation spread through hyper-realistic bots.
  7. Leverage AI-driven anomaly detection systems to identify unusual patterns of behavior, aiding in the early detection of hyper-realistic bots and preventing the spread of disinformation.
  8. Invest in deepfake detection solutions that utilize AI and machine learning algorithms to identify manipulated content. Regularly update these systems to keep up with advancements in deepfake technology.
  9. Datacenter and datacenter service recipients that work with mission critical systems should have dedicated Incident Response Teams (IRT) that develop and implement robust IR plans to manage and address cyber threats, breach events, and other incidents.
  10. Foster collaboration with industry peers and participate in information-sharing initiatives to stay abreast of emerging threats and best practices in countering cyber threats.
  11. Keep abreast of pertinent legal and regulatory prerequisites concerning data protection and cybersecurity. Ensure compliance with standards and regulations to mitigate legal risks.
  12. Implement continuous monitoring of network activities and regularly update security measures to respond to the ever-changing landscape of cybersecurity threats.

With all these measures incorporated, you can enhance your resilience against the threats identified above and contribute to a more secure data center environment all over the UK.

UK Data Center Trends

From an increased focus on sustainability to the growing demand for edge computing solutions, the data center industry is experiencing significant shifts.

  • Sustainability is trending in the UK data management space. With a heightened awareness of environmental impact, data centers are increasingly adopting green technologies and practices to reduce their carbon footprint. This includes innovative cooling solutions, energy-efficient designs, and a commitment to renewable energy sources.
  • The demand for low-latency and high-performance computing is driving the UK demand for edge computing. Data centers are strategically positioning themselves closer to end-users to meet the requirements of emerging technologies such as 5G, IoT, and augmented reality.
  • Organizations are embracing hybrid and multi-cloud strategies, leading to increased demand for data centers that can seamlessly integrate with various cloud platforms. This trend reflects the need for flexibility, scalability, and redundancy in data storage and processing.
  • With the imminent threat of cyberattacks and stringent data regulation, security is a paramount concern for UK data centers. Industry stakeholders are prioritizing the rollout of solid cybersecurity measures and guarantees of adherence to regulatory frameworks.

Emerging Technologies Shaping the Future

As we look ahead, several emerging technologies are poised to revolutionize the UK data center landscape.

  • AI is increasingly being integrated into data center operations to optimize resource allocation, predict and prevent system failures, and enhance overall efficiency. From intelligent data management to automated maintenance, AI is becoming a game-changer.
  • While still in its early stages, the exploration of quantum computing holds immense potential for data centers. Quantum computing can address complex problems at unprecedented speeds, opening new frontiers in data processing capabilities.
  • Efficient cooling remains a critical aspect of data center operations. Emerging cooling technologies, such as liquid cooling and advanced thermal management systems, are gaining traction to address the challenges of heat dissipation in high-density computing environments.
  • The convergence of edge computing with AI and machine learning is creating opportunities for real-time data processing and analysis at the network’s edge. This integration is particularly relevant for applications requiring low latency and high responsiveness.

Market Niches and Opportunities

Several market niches and opportunities are emerging, presenting avenues for innovation and growth.

  • There is a growing demand for data centers catering to individual verticals, such as finance, healthcare, and gaming. Tailoring solutions to satisfy the unique requirements of these sectors presents lucrative opportunities for specialized data center providers.
  • The shift towards sustainability opens doors for Data-Centers-as-a-Service (DCaaS) providers focusing on eco-friendly solutions. Offering carbon-neutral or energy-efficient services can be a distinct market niche in response to the increasing emphasis on environmental responsibility.

About Us

With over ten years of data management leadership, our team at Vodworks comprises more than 120 expert developers operating from five global development centers. We’ve successfully completed 300+ projects, covering on-premises, off-premises, and at-edge.

At Vodworks, we seamlessly integrate with your team, providing essential skills, services, and tools. This allows you to focus on your core business. Our commitment spans the entire software development lifecycle—from the idea to its realization and beyond. Aiming to ensure as smooth a journey as possible, we offer continuous support, updates, and rapid fixes.

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