What does the future hold for data centres?

ABB Australia Pty Ltd

By Dave Sterlace*
Monday, 12 August, 2019

What does the future hold for data centres?

Whether privately run or shared by the public, data centres will become vital for hosting mission-critical applications and streamlining information in the Internet of Things world.

In 2018, computers accounted for 41% of total internet traffic. With the advent of 5G, smartphones will account for 44% of this traffic by 2022, with at least one-third of all data passing through the cloud by 2020. The distinctive technological demands of mobile applications are driving data centre facilities to become bigger than ever. By the end of 2018 there were over 400 such ‘hyperscale’ facilities around the world.[1]

There are nearly 8000 data centres around the world, and more than 2500 are concentrated in just 20 metropolitan hubs. Australia is one of the most mature data centre markets in the Asia–Pacific. Despite increasing competition from countries in the region, like Singapore and Japan, the Australian data centre industry continues to expand. Currently, Sydney is the primary location of data centres in Australia, with coastal cities like Melbourne and Brisbane fast emerging as key hubs. Hyperscale cloud vendors are likely to spur demand for high-density power racks, with each one of them drawing over 30 kW of electricity in the next three to five years.[2]

To keep electricity bills from mounting, innovative management tools are essential. Operations at a modern-day data centre are best served by visibility into the interconnected systems, allowing aspects like power management and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) to run in tandem. Latest digital switchgear and data centre automation solutions make this possible.

As digital solutions are developed, we can learn from the values of process industries such as semiconductor fab, oil and gas, and pharmaceuticals, all of which have similar needs as data centres. For instance, all require continuous operations, reliability, ease of maintenance, safety for operators, grid interaction and efficiency.

It is an exciting time, where gains of other industrial-scale operations can be applied to data centres. The sheer scope of some operations make data centres an important user on the grid. Energy costs account for more than 40% of the operating cost of a data centre, with such facilities set to consume one-fifth of the world’s energy by 2025.

The future holds promise on this front. Data centre operators will not be limited to being consumers, but will become interactive contributors to smart grids, with the implementation of micro- and nano-grid techniques, as well as alternate green and renewable energy systems. Nearly 8% of all new data centres will be powered by clean energy by 2020. The industry is now better integrated with the power grid, and hyperscaling is driving up efficiency.[3]

ABB’s industrial automation portfolio provides a shortcut to digitalisation by futureproofing existing infrastructure without having to ‘rip and replace’, thereby boosting efficiency and saving costs. A smart circuit breaker, like the Emax 2, can be coupled to power measurement and monitoring systems at facilities. One such solution, ABB Ability Electrical Distribution Control System, with its roots in power management for commercial buildings, can save up to 30% on operational costs.[4]

The upcoming Data Center Dynamics event at the Sydney International Convention Centre on 15 August is an ideal platform for ABB to share its insights and technology highlights for the data centre industry. Visit ABB in the Power Up Lounge to learn how digitalisation can help operators gain real-time access to performance metrics and help increase safety, reliability and efficiency through predictive maintenance and better monitoring.[5]

*Dave Sterlace, ABB’s Global Head of Technology for Data Center Industry Sector. Dave Sterlace is the Global Head of Technology for the Data Center Industry Sector at ABB, bringing more than 25 years of experience in critical power. He is Chairman of the Marketing Committee for The Green Grid, an industry organisation whose mission is to drive accountable, effective, resource-efficient, end-to-end ICT ecosystems.

[1] https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/white-paper-c11-741490.pdf

[2] https://cloudscene.com/market/data-centers-in-australia/all

[3] https://www.ciena.com/insights/articles/Twelve-Mind-blowing-Data-Center-Facts-You-Need-to-Know.html

[4] https://new.abb.com/low-voltage/launches/abb-ability-edcs

[5] https://www.datacenterdynamics.com/conferences/sydney/2019/

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Shutter81

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