King Willem-Alexander Meets With Leaders of the Cloud Industry

The cloud has a way of connecting people, and everyone knows it – including King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.

Roundtable Discussions

On November 1st, King Willem-Alexander – alongside government officials, representatives of the Dutch Data Center Association, and prominent leaders in the data computing industry – participated in a data center tour and roundtable discussions regarding Amsterdam as a technological gateway to Europe.

Among the attendees were Con Zwinkels, CEO of Leaseweb, who met King Willem-Alexander for the first time.

“His Royal Highness did all of his research and asked all the right questions,” said Zwinkels. “It’s great that there is such an interest in Dutch digital infrastructure, as it’s an industry that plays a massive role in both the local and global economy.”

Con Zwinkels and King Willem-Alexander at the roundtable discussion.

An Interconnected World

Amsterdam is the largest digital hub in Europe and is one of three main ports in the Netherlands – along with Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam. These three hubs serve as key facilitators in the global movement of information, people, and goods and are helping to shape a new, more interconnected world.

Zwinkels, a pioneer in the cloud hosting industry, believes that the work being done is opening commercial opportunities that transcend borders.

“The data industry is proving contrary to a global trend, where we are noticing many industries and nations becoming more closed off, resulting in a loss of idea sharing and unnecessary economic turbulence. We have a real opportunity to keep everything open and affect the lives of practically everyone across the globe,” said Con.

The local impact is just as significant, and he notes that “developing digital infrastructure in the Netherlands is a way of growing the industry as a larger phenomenon. In the Netherlands, it’s a way to advance transportation further while attracting significant talent in this new digital economy.”

Turbulence for Data Centers

But it hasn’t all been smooth flying for the data center industry in the Netherlands. The roundtable discussions also addressed a recent ruling made by local Dutch municipality members: a verdict that currently bans the building of new data centers in the Amsterdam region.

Officials believe that this temporary ban – which affects an area containing about 70% of all data centers in the Netherlands – will allow them to regulate the building of data centers better and will ensure compliance with the building’s power consumption and energy emittance.

“I am hesitant to agree with this ruling as it does not make sense to halt the building of data centers in the Amsterdam metro area due to energy consumption and electricity concerns. It’s smarter to look at proper power planning, the efficiency of data centers by getting them as green as possible instead of simply banning them altogether.

In the cloud, you can run an infinite number of activities that virtually eliminates the need for excessive energy usage. For example, people cut travel by working out of a home office or by meeting virtually. E-commerce has come to replace almost any imaginable traditional commerce activity. The energy consumption this reduces confirms that data centers are leaders in green energy rather than environmental hindrances. Data centers run on the same green electricity from windmills and solar cells that our E-bikes, Teslas and trains run on,” he said.

King Willem-Alexander’s visit to the NTT data center campus in Amsterdam.

The Industry as a Flywheel

Zwinkels, a former Martinair Boeing 747 captain, refers back to his aviation roots and compares the current climate of the data industry to the mechanics of a flywheel:

“If you are the main port and you already have a good hub, the growth you are experiencing is just like the spinning of a flywheel. You don’t just stop all of the built-up momentum. It’s easier to get it spinning even faster and make it even more stable than to say, ‘we’re not going to grow in it anymore.’”

King Willem-Alexander, an avid aviator himself, recognized this parallel during the round table discussions.

“It was good to see that the participants understood the flywheel was turning nicely in Amsterdam, and that it’s something that we need to ensure will keep on spinning for a long time to come.

On a global scale, it’s not a good sign if you stand still for long. We need to progress, and to do so, all parties – municipalities, power suppliers, universities, industry leaders – need to communicate. There needs to be more openness and collaboration within the industry before we can expect our impact to further filter into the global economy,” said Con.

Looking Ahead

Regardless of the current ruling, the future is looking bright for the data center industry in the Netherlands, a country that is known historically for its innovation and economic adaptability.

“If you have the network function that Amsterdam currently has, I don’t see the growth stopping anytime soon. It attracts people and businesses,” says Zwinkels, “and I hope that Leaseweb can continue to steer this growth and be a beacon for workers and companies to come and operate in Amsterdam.”

He continues, saying “the industry is on the right path, and we have the flywheel spinning – but we should not become complacent. We need increased communication, collaboration, and understanding to continue the expansion of the cloud hosting industry to successfully open up and connect the world.”