In the COVID-19 era, data centres have attained the status of critical infrastructure. As the Internet backbone, data centres store, move, process as well as analyse the data needed to power any online service.
As organisations around the world have upped their digitalisation ante, data centre service providers have seen their business grow- and along with it increased challenges. In an increasingly connected world, hyperscalers are redefining every computing aspect.
Hyperscalers started to gain increasing traction when companies in the e-commerce, cloud services and social media markets needed to better support massive numbers of customers and customer data while being able to rapidly scale their market footprint. Darren Hawkins, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SpaceDC is of the view that the growth witnessed throughout Asia is really exciting.
“We are all in the right place at the right time. Over the next 5 years as an industry we will go through an incredible change as we work together as a group to service our customer’s needs. Sustainability and how we innovate our design, build as well as the operations of our facilities will be challenging and rewarding.”
Monitoring in Real Time
One of the key challenges faced by many data centre service providers is with monitoring the facilities in real-time and ensuring constant uptime. Industry watchers have pointed out that the top challenges faced include designing, operating, and sustaining the IT and physical support infrastructure in today’s data centres.
Also, data centre managers are being tasked to run much larger, more complex workloads which are often different from one another. Hardware requirements can vary widely from workload to workload may also change over the course of a day or even an hour.
Apart from that there are challenges such as provisioning hardware for new applications, identifying where there is available power capacity, facilitating the automation of data centres to minimise both headcount and downtime and more. WHen it comes to automation, efforts are underway.
DCWiz, the award-winning cognitive digital twin platform from Red Dot Analytics, empowers data centres to digitalise, optimise, and automate their operations toward greater business resilience and environmental sustainability. Prof. Yonggang Wen, Professor and President’s Chair, School of Computer Science and Engineering
Associate Dean (Research), College of Engineering Nanyang Technological University, Singapore & Red Dot Analytics, explains that digital twins enable mission-critical operations to predict, quantify, and visualise impact of any change before implementing it in the physical environment to make better and safer decisions.
We are driven by the vision to bring cutting-edge artificial intelligence and sustainability-focused innovations to enable data centres to amplify their sustainable impact. Prof. Yonggang Wen, Professor and President’s Chair, School of Computer Science and Engineering Associate Dean (Research), College of Engineering, NTU
Improving capacity utilisation
In a dynamic data centre it is almost impossible to understand how much space, power, and cooling are required. Hence, predicting when will you run out, which server is the best for new services, and just how much power is needed to ensure uptime and availability, becomes a huge challenge. It is here that industry watchers recommend using a data centre infrastructure management solution. It can act as a single repository for providing all asset-related information.
What this also does is that it enables consistent, accurate record-keeping and provides instantaneous visual and textual information (to reduce time taken for locating assets), thereby reducing troubleshooting time.
Managing Energy Usage & Costs
A data centre is also energy-guzzling. Nearly 40 per cent of the energy in a data centre goes into cooling systems to maintain a temperature-controlled environment, round the clock. According to New York Times, most data centres, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner…online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock…as a result, data centres can waste 90 per cent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid.
In Singapore, data centres account for 7 per cent of the country’s total energy consumption, and could potentially increase to 12 per cent by 2030.Estimates further suggest that data centres account for up to 5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The data centre sector accounts for between 1-2 per cent of all global electricity usage which means there is likely to be continued pressure for operators to be more efficient. There is a rising need for data centre providers to monitor energy consumption and identify areas where they can consolidate. Environmental sensors can collect information for safely raising temperature set points and also help in driving energy-efficient behaviour.
One way is to invest in energy-efficient commercial chiller equipment that offers competitive energy performance and proven reliability. Smart buildings technology providers are offering advanced chiller equipment, which uses low-global warming potential refrigerant and is optimised to reduce average annual electricity consumption by 35 per cent.
Data centre providers could even consider harnessing free-cooling chiller solutions, which include evaporative cooling technologies for even better energy efficiency. Using digital resources and analytics is another way to optimise energy usage.
In a typical data centre, the servers’ load will vary throughout the day. A smart solution to monitor the energy consumption patterns allows data centre managers to configure the optimal use of their resources, as well as to identify and diagnose equipment problems and take proactive steps to fix them. In some cases, smart chillers can reduce unplanned and emergency repairs by as much as 66 per cent.
Companies in Singapore have been facing a tough time hiring high-demand roles such as technicians and analysts of power systems, control specialists of facilities, robotics technologists, amongst others. 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.
In the final analysis, the intersection of sustainability initiatives, hiring the best talent and using automation technologies could pave the way for data centre service providers going forward. This may well be partially driven by the customers who will be keen to align with companies that have all these values in-built.
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