Data centres: go dense, go green and go fast


Until recently, energy was a no-brainer. That is, it was perceived as unlimited and was relatively inexpensive, resulting in no need for technological breakthrough. Today, however, a major global challenge is to deal with the scarcity of energy sources, the cost of energy and climate change. As Jonathan Duncan, director for the Central and North East Africa region at APC by Schneider Electric, says: “The energy dilemma is here to stay.”
He adds that the current energy environment is resulting in new technologies to fulfill new needs for advanced energy efficiency and new standards.
“The facts are that electricity demand will double by 2030 and by 2050, overall energy demand will double again. By 2050 we will have to divide our CO2 emissions by half if we want to avoid dramatic climate changes. In other words, the world needs to improve its carbon intensity by a factor of four in the next 40 years, meaning that developed countries will have to save energy while the new economies will have to provide access to efficient energy to two billion people,” says Duncan.
Accordingly, the energy sector is now reinventing itself, which leads to major changes and evolutions that are revolutionising the historic landscape, such as: decarbonisation in electricity generation, more efficiency throughout the power generation process, rebirth of nuclear power, development and integration of renewable energies to the grid, deregulation and diversification of electrical providers and transmission and distribution process.
“It is estimated that there will be more investments in the energy sector in the next 25 years than there have been since the birth of electricity at the beginning of the 20th century,” says Duncan.
Within this energy scenario, he believes that in order to achieve the ultimate data centre availability is to go dense, go green and go fast.
“Availability is the ever-present constraint in data centre planning. A decade ago, businesses were mainly concerned with achieving the five 9s in data centre availability or a Tier 4 in data centre design. It is still a primary issue, but it now has to be discussed within the context of efficiency. This makes planning a data centre more complex,” he says.
He explains that currently, there is an increased stress on power and cooling due to centralisation/consolidation of distributed data centres and high density technology, such as virtualisation, on-demand computing and multi-core processors.
“World-wide there is a growing awareness resulting in data centres being in the spotlight due to high energy usage that is increasing rapidly and the opportunity to redirect cost savings toward the business.
“There is also a need for agility, speed and predictability in response to escalating a pace of change in the business climate, service quality level and business continuity standards, as well as compliance requirements. And, all these factors are putting the squeeze on availability,” he says.
According to Duncan, it is for these reasons that data centres can not be addressed in individual components. Data centres must therefore be looked at as a whole in terms of data centre consolidation programmes, virtualisation of servers, storage, merging of applications and in addition to leveraging more energy efficient IT equipment. Energy and management measurement software and reducing the carbon footprint, as well as a shorter design and building cycle time, designing with consideration of preferences versus constraints and using tools to evaluate design impacts.
“We are in the midst of an energy revolution where companies should be focusing on the end of their value chain in order to save energy and so ensure their sustainability,” he concludes.