IBM is opening four new data centers in the U.K., despite some of the gloomy forecasts for the country's economy following its vote to leave the European Union.
It's five years since the company began offering cloud services in the U.K., and two years since it opened its second cloud data center there.
The new data centers will raise the U.K.'s share of IBM's cloud capacity in Europe from one-sixth to more than one-third. That's an interesting bet on the U.K.'s future outside the E.U.
Following June's "Brexit" vote, the U.K. is set to withdraw from the 28-country bloc in a little more than two years, once the U.K. government makes up its mind when and how to leave. After that, it's anybody's guess what role data centers in the U.K. will play in the broader European economy.
In May 2018, the EU's General Data Protection Regulation will enter effect, tightening rules on the transfer of citizens' personal information outside the bloc. Unless the U.K. continues to respect EU regulations -- something the popular vote would seem to have rejected -- or negotiates its own equivalent of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, then processing such information in the U.K. will be out of the question.
But IBM could still find enough business to fill those data centers in other ways.
London continues to thrive as a financial center and even if, post-Brexit, European banks are forced to move some trading activities to Paris or Frankfurt to comply with regulations, the City may be able to reinvent itself as an "offshore" market.
Highly regulated industries such as finance are among the opportunities IBM said it is targeting with the new data centers.
IBM also plans to support around 150 cloud APIs on its Bluemix development platform from its new U.K. data centers, including access to its Watson artificial intelligence tools and its blockchain technology, something increasingly drawing the attention of the financial industry.
The first of the four new data centers will open in Fareham, England, next month. But the company isn't having them all built from the ground up.
The second, due to be up and running by the middle of next year, will be in space leased from Ark Data Centers. That same facility already houses the Crown Hosting Framework, a joint venture between Ark and the U.K. government for hosting government data. The other two should also open in 2017, IBM said.