60 Second Interview with Emma Fryer, Associate Director, Climate Change Programmes, techUK

Emma Fryer

Judge for awards:
1. Datacentre Leadership Award
2. Datacentre Above and Beyond Award
3. Most Innovative Energy Solution Award

Datacloud: What do you see for the future of the industry?
EF: I would always be hesitant to predict where this sector is going because it is driven by disruptive technology. So the one thing we can guarantee is change: not just change in technology but change in business models. In terms of major trends we can’t deny that the big growth area will continue to be cloud, where exponential data growth is driven not just by social media, but smart grid, IoT, big data etc. plus some degree of migration – although there will still be a place for legacy. My particular interest is in what will happen to our energy demand, but that is another story….

Datacloud: What is the biggest opportunity in the industry today?
EF: I am a bit of a pessimist at heart so I always like to temper opportunity with threat as the two generally come together. So policy developments like the rejection of safe harbour presents an opportunity for more investment in the EU and for regional cloud. At the same time it has negative implications for European operators handling US data and vice versa. I see this as part of a wider threat, where those developing policy don’t understand how the sector works and create policies that have unintended consequences – usually negative ones. However, the corollary is an opportunity to inform that policy process and we need to take it.

Datacloud: What's one of your goals for the next year and how do you expect to achieve it?
EF: In my job as jack of all trades, sitting in that dangerous no-man’s-land between industry and government I’m obliged to keep multiple plates spinning all the time, which means I have a lot of goals. However, I’ve picked out one that is particularly important. With the help of my members and other stakeholders I’ve been developing a technical advisory group to help policy makers understand the technical and market characteristics of the sector before the process of policy development starts. We’ve done some good work so far and I want to use the next year to consolidate this.

Datacloud: What do you think matters most in the development of the industry and its effect on business and society?
EF: This is a personal view but I think that we need to keep data centres boring. Yes they have an important function but so do sewage works and crematoria. So it’s all about explaining to people what data centres do and that they are important without making them too exciting. This is tricky, because they are exciting – very - but the last thing we want is too much attention. The minute you make something interesting you become a political and media football and then nobody leaves you alone for a moment. Look at education. When I went through the education system in the 70s and 80s nobody even considered that the curriculum should be centrally controlled by government. Now education is so centrally policed and interfered with that teachers barely have a moment left to teach because they are so busy ticking boxes and complying with new diktats. Let’s not go there.

Datacloud: Why do you feel awards ceremonies still have a role in today’s e-world?
EF: Awards ceremonies are a great way to showcase and share best practice, and to remind people that what they do matters, and that doing it well, exceptionally well, matters even more. Also, in an industry where so much of one’s time is spent engaging with digital devices as proxies for face to face interactions it is very important to get properly drunk with one’s peers now and again.