Google announces UK data centre to meet ‘growing demand’ for AI

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Google has announced plans to invest $1 billion in a new data centre in the UK which it says will help to meet “growing demand” for its AI and cloud services.

The 33-acre site in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire will bring much-needed compute capacity to businesses, supporting AI innovation and ensuring reliable digital services for Google Cloud customers and general consumers relying on products like Search, Maps, and YouTube.

Ruth Porat, Alphabet’s president and chief financial officer, said the data centre “represents our latest investment in the UK and the wider digital economy.” She added that it builds on previous investments like Saint Giles and Kings Cross offices, a multi-year research deal with Cambridge, and the Grace Hopper subsea cable connecting the UK with the US and Spain.

Porat said the facility will “help meet growing demand for our AI and cloud services and bring crucial compute capacity to businesses across the UK while creating construction and technical jobs for the local community.”

As a pioneer in computing infrastructure, Google runs some of the most efficient data centres in the world and has committed to powering them entirely on carbon-free energy around the clock by 2030.

Last year, Google signed a deal with ENGIE for offshore wind energy from Scotland’s Moray West farm which will provide 100MW of energy and put UK operations on track for 90 percent clean energy by 2025.

The new data centre will recover heat for local homes and businesses while also deploying an air-cooling system.

Porat called the new data centre the “latest in a series of investments that support Brits and the wider economy” and evidence of its “continued commitment to the UK.” Other investments include $1 billion for its Central Saint Giles office space, developing the one million sq ft King’s Cross campus, and an Accessibility Discovery Centre spurring accessible technology.

Beyond offices, data centres, and subsea cables, Google has also provided digital skills training for over a million Brits and expanded its AI-focussed Digital Garage curriculum to capitalise on demand for the technology.  

Google’s announcement follows Microsoft confirming a £2.5 billion data centre in the UK last November after overcoming regulatory hurdles for its £55 billion Activision Blizzard acquisition.

“This is the single largest investment in its 40-year history in the country which will see Microsoft grow its UK AI infrastructure across sites in London and Cardiff and potential expansion into northern England, helping to meet the exploding demand for efficient, scalable, and sustainable AI specific compute power,” explained HM Treasury.

“Data centres process, host, and store the massive amounts of digital information that is critical for developing AI models.”

Microsoft is supplying its UK data centre with more than 20,000 advanced GPUs for machine learning and the development of new AI models.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said: “The UK is the tech hub of Europe with an ecosystem worth more than that of Germany and France combined – and this investment is another vote of confidence in us as a science superpower.”

(Image Credit: Google)

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