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Thinking

Data centres that look to the future

A data centre

In an industry characterised by rapid advances and changing requirements, data centre operators cannot afford to rely on what they have done in the past to secure success.

Designing and operating data centres that look to the future and are lasting assets for those who invest in them will require a sound knowledge of how the future of data centres might play out; the disruptors and influencers that require careful consideration; and emerging technological possibilities. 

“Nowhere are disruptive forces requiring industry leaders to rethink the way they do business more evident than in the data centre industry. If data centre operators are to thrive in a future that is as yet unwritten, they will require in-depth insight into the many shifting aspects that will influence project success,” says Peter Greaves, Aurecon’s Expertise Leader for Data & ICT Facilities.

In this paper he prepared, we explain why data centres that look to the future are lasting assets for those who invest in them.

Understanding where the demand for data comes from

Driven by the realisation of the Internet of Things, gamification and the emergence of the edge, the demand for high performance data centres is increasing… and increasing.

Every two days, we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time until 2003; and over 90% of data in the world was created in the past 2 years. “Ten years ago, we were designing data centres for an average electrical load of 500 watts per square metre. Increased technology, IT demands and the realisation of what we can connect have caused this load to rise, so we are now designing for 2 kilowatts per square metre, and even this is set to increase, with predictions that the amount of devices connected to the internet will rise from 13 billion today to 50 billion by 2020,” says Greaves.

Understanding the ‘new’ influencers 

“But whilst it’s easy to understand demand, other influencers are less straightforward and will become more complex as we move forward,” believes Greaves.

High performance has become ‘expected’

In the past, successful data centres were those which achieved high levels of redundancy requirements. Today, however, those high levels of redundancy have become the expected performance norm.

Designing for resource scarcity, not intensity

In addition, increasing demands in performance go hand-in-hand with the need for increased amounts of energy and water consumption. In the past, the challenge was to design for these requirements; whereas now, responsible development dictates we mitigate these requirements and taken a step further, design for resource scarcity in some areas. Free and emersion cooling are become increasingly attractive.

Location and the changing environment – thinking in a different way has become important

The location of data centres will change as operators look to gain efficiencies and be located to cheap, clean energy and high-connected locations.

In addition, the environment is changing as water levels increase; temperatures rise and environmental extremes occur frequently. This has an effect on where we locate data centres. Locations we previously considered may no longer be suitable, and new locations will be considered, due to lower risks.

The other exciting change will be the development of new materials and equipment to respond to these locations. If you consider the base raw materials involved in the construction of a data centre, little has changed in the last 50 years, and so the opportunity to introduce materials and systems into future data centres is huge. As we explore new locations with our clients, we see the need for new thinking around how the data centre will be realised.

We’re seeing locations such as submarines boats utilised to take advantages of some of the natural benefits these locations offer.

Digital engineering – getting ready for even more change

In the same way that mobile devices were the game changer when it comes to data consumption, digital engineering is set to disrupt the virtual landscape as we know it. From intelligent buildings and 3D printers to 4, 5, 6 and even 7D reality, we are entering an era set to be a melting pot of exciting technology, devices, and interface points that will all require connection to our existing networks and infrastructure. 

“As with all disruptive forces, benefits are there for the taking, but will require creativity and innovation. At Aurecon, this means finding new ways to transform our clients’ businesses and help them become more competitive through innovation. In partnership with our data centre clients, we’ve positioned ourselves to challenge the ‘status quo’ and to envision what’s possible, and then design ways to get there,” concludes Greaves.

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