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Hopes for more jobs and investment as data centre from Japanese giant gets ready to open in Dagenham

PUBLISHED: 12:00 02 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:51 02 December 2019

One of the bare server halls in the data centre. It's slated to open May 1, 2020. Picture: Luke Acton.

One of the bare server halls in the data centre. It's slated to open May 1, 2020. Picture: Luke Acton.

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A hulking green box is all that can be seen of what the council has estimated is a £1.5billion Dagenham project. The company behind it says it's set to house systems that make much of our lives work.

NTT's new 12,800 square metre facility on the old Sanofi site near the Dagenham East Underground station. Picture: Luke Acton.NTT's new 12,800 square metre facility on the old Sanofi site near the Dagenham East Underground station. Picture: Luke Acton.

Towering over the old Sanofi site near Dagenham East Tube station, Japanese telecoms giant NTT is banking on it containing dozens of servers after May 1 next year.

With that, the company and the council are hoping businesses will flock to the area, wanting to be closer to the digital infrastructure that's been ploughed into the site.

John Eland is global head of strategy and development at the company. He said: "This is an enabler and a catalyst. There are no guarantees with this facility, but if you look at historical demographics, it will make Dagenham more attractive to enterprises coming in.

"It's a little bit like putting a railway into somewhere, it's not an overnight transformation."

On November 28, construction crews were installing diesel generators that'll kick-in it both it's connections to the national grid fail. When the building is finished, generators will run alongside the entire structure. Picture: Luke Acton.On November 28, construction crews were installing diesel generators that'll kick-in it both it's connections to the national grid fail. When the building is finished, generators will run alongside the entire structure. Picture: Luke Acton.

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The new infrastructure includes high-capacity fibre optic lines running from Dagenham to the Docklands. From there information can travel through undersea cables and over the world wide web. It's important for some businesses to be as close as possible to the centres, with physical proximity meaning data can get between servers and a user more quickly - there's just less distance to travel.

NTT is the fourth largest publicly traded company in Japan - profits last year hit more than £11billion before tax. At capacity, the IT equipment in its Dagenham facility could use more than 60 megawatts. With the average home computer using around 100 watts, the centre has potential for 600,000 times more power.

There are around 200 people helping build the mammoth structure at any one time. There will be around 30 working in it when it's finished, plus anyone customers want to base at the data centre.

The bare wall of the currently empty building. Generators are planned for this entire side and NTT hopes companies will fill the space inside with their servers and other IT equipment. There are hopes the building's high-capacity connection to the internet will bring more businesses to the borough. Picture: Luke Acton.The bare wall of the currently empty building. Generators are planned for this entire side and NTT hopes companies will fill the space inside with their servers and other IT equipment. There are hopes the building's high-capacity connection to the internet will bring more businesses to the borough. Picture: Luke Acton.

"We've tried to use local firms where possible," Mr Eland said. "That's also the case for the future operation of the data centre."

He added NTT is working with educators in the borough to develop courses to give people the skills needed at places like the NTT site.

It's something to develop skills in the borough, but also to help the data sector, which is facing a talent shortage.

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