Despite its economic woes, Ireland is the country with the largest growth* this year in number of public-facing web servers in Netcraft's hosting provider server count. However, this is mostly due to large growth at Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service.
Amazon started offering its EC2 service in the EU in December 2008, via a datacenter in Dublin. Since then it has been the fastest-growing hosting company in Ireland. Amazon's cloud hosting now makes up more than a third of all internet-facing web servers in Ireland, with three times more web servers hosted than the next largest hosting location.
Netcraft's hosting provider server count is part of the web server survey. Virtualised servers generally count as separate servers in this survey — although it depends on the type of virtualisation used — so the number for Amazon is counting EC2 instances and not physical servers. The number of physical servers cannot be determined remotely. The number of EC2 instances in Amazon's EU datacenter will be higher than the number doing web server tasks, as there will be many offering other services or being used for back-end processing tasks (but the same is true of other hosters; see server count limitations and error margins for more information).
There has also been faster growth in the number of secure (SSL) websites hosted in Ireland than in the number of secure websites belonging to Irish companies. The graph above shows the number of valid third-party SSL certificates found on servers in Ireland, compared to the number of such certificates found for Irish companies (as determined by the address on the certificate), from Netcraft's SSL server survey**. Once again there is a clear increase in non-Irish companies hosted in Ireland in the last 2 years, and this is mainly due to these companies using Amazon's EC2 service. Since October 2010 Amazon is the largest hoster of secure websites in Ireland.
The extent to which growth in hosting in Ireland is based on non-Irish companies is a result of attracting large foreign investments, in particular by large US technology companies including Amazon, Dell and Microsoft. This is potentially an advantage, as shown by the strong growth in web hosting continuing even during its recent economic problems. On the other hand it shows why Ireland cannot afford to scare off this foreign investment, hence the controversy over the retention of a low corporation tax rate at a time when Ireland is seeking to increase its tax revenues.
Amazon has also recently started offering its Web Services in Singapore, and was one of the fastest growing hosters in Asia-Pacific last month as a result. However the number of web sites hosted there remains small for now.
* Excluding countries with less than 5,000 computers.
** Excluding domain-validated certificates, as these often do not include an address so the country of the company owning/registering the certificate is unknown. Note that the jump in mid-2010 is an exceptional change due to a general improvement in coverage in the SSL survey.