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A world that grows at a dizzying pace and Italy is expanding around the most important and dynamic of cities. Over the past two years, the industry has faced massive changes and the data center segment has followed the general trend.

At the beginning of 2020, many businesses suddenly needed much more technology to manage data, for smart working, video conferences and so on, requiring more and more digital presence in our lives. A trend that continued into 2021 and has not yet ended.

Today the question is no longer whether there will be an expansion of data centers, even to new areas, but how fast this growth will be, explains the latest research on the sector at a global level compiled by Cushman & Wakefield. A trend that unites many areas of the world, albeit at still different speeds.

In Italy, the Data Center sector, a transversal segment that attracts investments from entities dedicated to infrastructure, private equity and real estate companies, recorded transactions for 750 thousand square meters from 2013 to 2021 for a value of 650 million euros. about. Investments are concentrated in the industrial and logistics areas, as Alessandro Mancini, Partner and Head of Industrial & Logistics Italy - Data Center Advisory, for Cushman & Wakefield, a company that has assisted 80% of consultancy in this sector in the country, tells us.

"Among the main drivers emerges a growing importance of online gaming (Microsoft in mid-January 2022 bought the big video game Activision for 68.7 billion dollars, its largest acquisition ever, ed), in addition to the cloud (storage of data), the IoT (Internet of Things, ie the connection to the internet of everyday objects) and e-learning, to reach remote medicine ", says Mancini. All this will lead to an increase in the demand for such spaces. The types? They range from hyperscale data centers, with dimensions over 50 thousand square meters, to spaces of intermediate dimensions up to “edge data centers”, smaller centers that allow the provision of cloud computing services to local users ».

According to rumors, from 2011 to date, in Italy the main transactions for campus Data centers of international importance are 16, of which seven in 2021 alone.

Milan, which is confirmed as the main financial and business hub of the country, has become the first destination for investments in data centers. Cloud services companies entered the market with different strategies. Amazon Web Services is expanding in southern Europe, while Azure, Microsoft's public cloud platform, announced in May 2020 an investment plan worth 1.5 billion over five years in Italy with the aim of launch the first Microsoft Region Data Center in Milan. Following this, Google Cloud and Telecom Italia, in partnership, develop a network of data centers in the country. On the operator front, alongside Aruba and Telecom Italia, the pan-European group Equinix, Data4 and Colt, among the main ones, entered the country. Data4, a French company founded in 2006 and acquired in 2018 by Axa Im-Real assets, which today manages 19 data centers in France, Luxembourg, Italy and Spain, has recently announced an investment plan of 650 million euros divided into four main European cities, of which 200 million destined for Italy, precisely to grow as a reference player in the world of data centers.

The main Cluster for Data Center Campus in Italy today is in West Milan, developed by Nabucco Real Estate. In the medium term, all of Italy has the possibility of development. "Italy will become the natural hub in the Mediterranean" comments Mancini. Much will depend on the next infrastructural development of the country, on the cost of energy and also on the political stabilization of North Africa, but Italy certainly has the characteristics to become a new point of reference in Europe.

Returning to Microsoft, the group is investing most of all in our territory: its operations around Milan are numerous, followed by Equinix, Vantage, Data4 and Supernap. The latter two were the first to believe in our country over ten years ago together with Aruba.

In Milan there is also a certain interest in the eastern area, developed in particular by the important Akno Group, in agreement with the main DC operators. The southern area, on the other hand, is in an initial phase of expansion.

"Throughout the Milan district, many municipalities are banning logistic activity in industrial areas and precisely with the arrival of data centers, these realities are finding renewed interest, finding a value per square meter that has more than doubled (compared to logistics ). And a race to the top is underway »says Mancini again. And Rome? The capital is far behind Milan, even if investors are ready to bet here too, just like in other real estate asset classes.

What are the characteristics of the properties on which investors want to position themselves? These are generally newly built assets, the cost of which depends on the technologies that are constantly updated.

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