The demand of data centres has been on a rise and is expected to further increase in the next few years.
But what do organisations do when there is an absence of benchmarks?
This was discussed at W.Media’s Digital Week South Asia panel discussion titled ‘How to overcome the absence of benchmarks and business need to go with green data centres in Sri Lanka’.
Moderated by Lakmal Embuldeniya, the panellists included Hessam Seifi, Managing Director, DC PRO. Dinesh Wickremanayake, Managing Director and Sri Lanka Location Head, WNS Global Services. Arkatti Patabandige Harshana De Silva, Manager- Data Centre Technologies KBSL Information Technologies Limited and Amal Kaluarachchi, Consultant- Data Centre Services, Dialog Axiata PLC
Building Green DC
There are three main factors which you need to satisfy before you can call it a green data centre. “When talking about green data centres we need to see which area to invest in.
First is efficiency, if a data centre can be efficient it can continue to become a green data centre, next is the source of the energy when talks about the source of power are they coming from green sources or are they coming from sustainable sources and last is the emission.
If we take care of these three areas then we are going to have a green data centre”, said Hessam Seifi.
To explain this further, Seifi gave an example of dividing data centres into three components. The first one is the infrastructure where the power comes to the data centre, that’s where you have the cooling systems, power distributions.
The second one is the IT hardware equipment and the third one is the software infrastructure.
All these three components can have an impact on data centres being green. Everyone is talking about the mechanical efficiency, electrical efficiency, chillers and the last two components are taken for granted.
The last two components should also have more emphasis on them because the way in which a software is deployed and set up, the whole thing will consume power.
PUE at play
“In terms of benchmarking, there is no globally accepted benchmark for the data centres but what is now coming to the picture is the power usage effectiveness which the PUE, the industry is trying to focus more on. PUE is the total energy of the data centre divided by the IT energy consumed, that gives you a number.
That number shows how efficient a data centre is. In some countries some legislators are imposing that as a benchmark, they want new data centres that are being built satisfy a certain number of PUE.
That could be a good start but not an ultimate solution to benchmarking the data centres”, added Seifi.
“There are two main standards of tiers that we use, one is from Uptime institute and one from TIA the telecom industry association.
They have defined four different level OTS of data centres from tier one to tier four, where tier 1 being the lowest level of redundancy and tier 4 being the highest level of redundancy.
When you take tier one it is a simple set up you don’t have any redundancy in the form of power, cooling, network connectivity or space.
When you move to tier two the main difference is still you don’t have any redundancy but you will have a backup system and still you are looking at the down time of days or multiple hours.
The concept of redundancy is introduced in tier three, there is a concept of concurrent maintainability where each of the components, be it power, cooling, space or connectivity can be maintained independently so that the uptime is drastically improved and downtime is in the range of hours.
Tier four is basically when you have two tier three data centres connecting which means you have redundancy built on top of redundancy.
But for practical purposes I think a well maintained and tested tier three data centre gives more cost benefit than a tier four because normally the cost of building a tier four data centre outraises the benefits”, said Dr. Harshana De Silva.
He further added that in building green data centres, if you are building for the purpose of collocation where we are inviting customers to consolidate their workloads offsite, the best starting point will be a tier three data centre where we have a built in redundancy which is a primary requirement of the customers.
But while looking at building your own data centre or building it for the SME sector or maybe for non-redundant workload, one can start with tier two as well which would be a less costly option.
Telecom and Investment in DC’s
“The telecom service providers are expected to provide collocation and connectivity. There are some carrier neutral service providers who are providing collocation services like hyperscalers.
As a telecommunication service provider we are necessarily expected to focus on being cost effective and green. I’m saying cost effective because when you become green, once you become energy efficient you can be cost effective.
In that sense in Sri Lanka we have built data centres by the service providers.
Starting from building a green data centre, we have data centres which are lead certified and green building council of Sri Lanka certified it is same as India’s GBC and for that matter world’s green building council certification. We have those things to further benchmark”, said Amal Kaluarachchi.
He further added that they had the first tier three data centre in Sri Lanka in 2017 and that they can go closer to 1.2 PUE in Sri Lanka if a data centre is being built in a place where the climate is cooler and the temperatures can be managed.
“As an operator as a telecommunication service provider we are very much focused on energy and we are going towards environmental management as well in terms of certifications as well such as ISO 14001. There are clear objectives mentioned and envisioned to go towards the same”, added Kaluarachchi.
“From an investor standpoint I think data centres and green data centres, there is still some amount of novelty attached to it in terms of businesses.
Looking at it from a business standpoint to make sure that it has a business proposition and a healthy ROI attached to it and I think a lot of that equation is now starting to change with lot of greenhouse emissions and the climate control commitments that are being made by the countries such as the U.S. As a country Sri Lanka is very much looking at those investments” said Dinesh Wickremanayake.
He further added that in terms of setting up data centres and in terms of what an investor would look for is first one would want to look for stability of the energy source, consistency in the regulatory framework that allows the running of the delivery centres.
The availability of investment will flow through once the TRCSL which is the Telecom Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka starts putting the framework together.
“In the year 2015, with the ITU there was a paper which outlined the framework that Sri Lanka and TRCSO needs to undertake and this policy document suggestions came out around e- waste management and green data centres.
When I spoke to the telecom secretary and some of the other folks, I think that is a paper which is being put together and a policy is being drafted”, added Wickremanayake.
He underlined that it is about the consistency of the policy and regulatory framework, it’s about the stable resource and renewable energy resources.
The technology which is suited for the Sri Lankan environment is important to consider and the support training infrastructure needs to grow along with it.
“From the government of Sri Lanka standpoint I think establishing those standardised green data centre protocols will allow us to take advantage of the opportunity in Sri Lanka. We need to spend more time investing in this space.
We have a number of green data centres set up and a recent one was set up by Advance city, an organisation in Sri Lanka. I think there are particular organisations that prefer data centres as opposed to cloud based solutions”, stated Wickremanayake.