Data centres are undergoing a huge makeover.
This transformation is both cosmetic (in terms of design, structure, usage of materials etc.), the kind of technology used to the talent that will be in charge of manning earth’s most valuable resources. What is Data Centre Transformation?
Simply put- it means the process of changing a data centre to improve its overall functionality and performance. Some experts define and characterise data centre transformation as large-scale programmes of change that affect many of the key parts of data centre use. This would include construction, design, hardware and business processes. From a technology perspective, the obvious changes would be – software-defined interconnection, cloud computing, usage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).
Renewable Energy to the Fore
The most discernible change that data centres are expected to undergo by the end of this decade, is in the area of energy adoption. As digital adoption continues to surge, non-clean power is expected to take a back seat and in some cases become dinosaur-like, i.e. extinct.
“With AI-based intelligent management, ZTE will bring green energy through the superposition of solar solutions, and build new type of green, efficient, low-carbon data centre from multiple dimensions,” opined LEI Ting, Director of Energy Product R&D Dept. (in charge of Data Center Product), from ZTE Corporation.
According to IRENA’s Global Renewables Outlook report the ASEAN region currently secures around 14 per cent of its primary energy from modern, sustainable resources. Asia is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world in terms of its primary energy demand and consumption.
“With the huge untapped potential for renewables, the regional grids and networks in Asia can go a long way in developing scalable capacity, boost access, and promoting broader regional economic integration, increasing the use of renewable energy in the future,” points out Chris Street, EVP of Market Development, PDG.
The booming development of digital infrastructure will bring about the growth of energy demand and carbon emissions. “Against the background of carbon peak and carbon neutrality, in the future, ZTE will continue to promote the data center to be prefabricated and modular, use indirect evaporative cooling air conditioners, liquid cooling system, and full-link power distribution modules to achieve high-density and energy-saving,” states LEI Ting.
Energy efficiencies, which was the key focus for data centres in the last few decades is now changing. “While energy efficiency has been the pursuit of data centre owners for the past decades, carbon neutrality will be their goal for the years to come.” Danny Cheng, Chairman of Banyano Data Center Consulting, Ltd, and Secretary General of the LEED Data Center Advisory (China) Committee.
When it comes to business, Singapore has emerged as one of the premier destinations and is an economic powerhouse. The nation also has a robust data centre market with many regional and global players, and the only mature data centre market in South-east Asia, research by Cushman & Wakefield shows.
Predicted to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12 per cent from 2019-2024, Singapore can continue to leverage the twin strengths of its mature local market and the emerging regional markets to navigate the next wave of data centre development. However, the sector faces a significant challenge- a lack of skilled workforce.
Just like many other data centre operators in the world, companies in Singapore have been having a hard time hiring high-demand roles such as technicians and analysts of power systems, control specialists of facilities, robotics technologists, amongst other roles. Attracting, developing, and retaining talent are important for the data centre industry.
Singapore’s information communications technology (ICT) sector currently employs about 200,000 people, and will require another 60,000 in the next three years, according to Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister in charge of the national Smart Nation Initiative.
Take the example of PDG. Asher Ling, Managing Director, Singapore, PDG pointed out that PDG offers internship programmes and collaborates with universities to provide training and educational courses to help contribute to talent development in the industry. “This includes partnering with Facebook and CBRE to focus on the development of data centre professionals, working with NTU in contributing and driving content and syllabus for the PaCE @NTU program that is aimed at right-skilling and developing the talent for the growing data centre industry” said Ling.
Edge data centres are also gaining in traction, especially in areas where there are geographical challenges when it comes to connectivity. Also, there is a global push for telco-neutral carriers as there is a general belief that non telcos have better resiliency plans on offer.
From being known as a warehouse of computer servers entangled amidst waves of cables, data centre as we know it set to undergo a massive transition.