Why India’s Data Centres need to set New Global Benchmarks

India’s data centre companies have to compete on quality, up their design quotient and set new benchmarks, in an area which is seeing intense competition from global players.

Even as India’s data centre industry is growing at 23 per cent in the next few years, a section of industry watchers are of the view that if India aspires to be a leader in the setting up and maintenance of data centres, some key points of differentiation is needed. As more data centre players enter the fray, and it is already an extremely competitive landscape, Indian data centre players will have to compete on quality.

“While many global data centres use the core principles that are outlined in Uptime Institute’s Tier Standard to assure performance standards, many of the existing ones are not designed accordingly,” said Mustapha Louni, Senior Vice President, Middle East, Africa & Greater India, Uptime Institute. A gap analysis audit can help these data centres benchmark themselves against the best in the world, and use a standard that is used by thousands of sites that have the best performance in terms of uptime and availability.

Achieving Quality Certifications

Uptime Institute provides certifications based on how a data centre achieves its stated objectives. Tier I is the lowest and Tier IV is the most advanced. In India, there are a handful of companies operating Tier IV data centres and the majority of them are Tier III and II certified, according to industry watchers. Uptime does not give a break up of how many data centres are certified Tier III and below but said that similar to the software services industry which set itself on a new path of quality with quality related certifications a few decades back, the data centre industry can embark on a similar higher growth trajectory, by rigorously achieving quality certifications.

“Achieving a Tier rating signals to investors, customers, and the marketplace, that your facility meets the highest standards for infrastructure functionality and capacity as demonstrated on the design documents. It validates that the system design is consistent with your uptime objectives. Tier Certification helps align the infrastructure design with the business mission, ensuring that your organization’s significant capital investment yields the desired result,” stated Mustapha Louni.

Increased Automation

India’s colocation data centre industry is expected to double by 2023, according to real estate research firm JLL. It expects capacity to increase from 499 megawatts (MW) IT load in H1 2021 to 1008 MW by 2023. This, in turn, would lead to a requirement of over five million sq. ft of real estate, according to research from JLL.

As these set of numbers make the industry bullish, another set of data points point to a different picture. In Uptime Institute’s annual Global Data Center Survey released in 2021, around 69 per cent of data centre owners and operators reported experiencing some form of outage in the past three years. There are many reasons for outages.

One of the most common reasons for an outage is loss of onsite power, and the only way to prevent this from happening is to invest in redundant systems that data centre operators can automatically switch over, in case of an outage. Cyberattacks are another major cause of data centre outages, and it is critical that data centre operators build a proactive security process that helps them defend against some of the most sophisticated attacks.

“As human error is one of the major causes of unplanned outages, data centre players must look at increasing the level of automation, so that the risks from human related errors are minimised. Daily or regular inspections must be made by staff to ensure that all IT equipment is working in an excellent working condition,” said Mustapha Louni. It is also recommended to get the IT infrastructure or the data centre audited by independent consultants who can thoroughly access an organisation’s IT structure, its applications and processes across multi-cloud or multi-site configurations and arrive at an assessment of risks and vulnerabilities, he added.

Continued skills shortage

To deal with many of these issues, there is an urgent need to find skilled workforce, which is a huge challenge in this sector- globally. Skills shortage can negatively India’s digital infrastructure growth. “In one of our recent reports, titled ‘The people challenge: Global data centre staffing forecast 2021-2025’, we found out that global data centre staff requirements are forecast to grow globally from about 2.0 million full-time employee equivalents in 2019 to nearly 2.3 million in 2025. Our belief is that technical staff will be extremely difficult to recruit in data centres,” pointed out Mustapha Louni.

Mechanical and electrical engineers in strategy and operations roles and all types of controls and monitoring employees are among the technical staff that will be increasingly needed through 2025, industry watchers opine. as India attempts to flex its tech muscle, the need for a world-class infrastructure is a given. How arduous is that journey? Data centre companies need to do some introspection.

Venkatesh Ganesh

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