Data Centres of the Future

A surge in data storage demand is transforming the design of data centres

Data centres have always been mission critical infrastructure – the beating heart that enables our interconnected, digital world to function. Now that they are the essential infrastructure of our increasingly digital ecosystem, how do we ensure they are fit for the future?

Data centres are the places where the ‘cloud’ meets the ‘ground’ – storing the increasing amount of zettabytes of data that enable us to stay connected, informed and entertained across every facet of our lives.

Particularly during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to increased remote working, they are the new ‘essential infrastructure’ for our digital world.

With our increasing use of digital devices, from iPhones and laptops to autonomous vehicles and smart building technology, we depend heavily on the reliability of our digital services. In fact, there is an expectation that they will always be available, no matter the circumstances. Data centres are essential infrastructure enabling us to stay connected.

connecting data

NEXTDC’s Chief of Engineering and Design discusses the future of data centres

Jeff Van Zetten, Chief of Engineering and Design at one of our key data centre clients, NEXTDC, talks about the importance of data centres, the role they play in our lives and how engineers are integral to their success.

Play video Jeff Van Zetten, NEXTDC’s Chief of Engineering and Design discusses the future of data centres.
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What factors are critical for data centres now?

Building data centre capacity at speed

It is vital that data centres can be developed at speed, to meet growing market and consumer demand. Being able to design and deliver a data centre efficiently, cost effectively and to a pre-determined timeline, is essential for competitive advantage.

Reliable and resilient data centres

Customers expect their data to be available 24/7. For this reason, data centres need to be able to guarantee reliability and resilience to events that may result in unexpected ‘downtime’.

Data centres that are environmentally and socially sustainable

There is another challenge that faces the data centre sector. Data centres are large users of energy and therefore significant contributors to carbon emissions. In fact, data centres contribute 3 per cent of carbon emissions to our environments.

So, not only do data centres need to be available to meet our needs, they also need to be environmentally and socially sustainable.

Future-proofing data centres

Considerations for future-proofing data centres involves foresight and understanding of a broad range of issues, starting with strategy and continuing through design, delivery and operations.

The digital age has increased the demand for data centres that meet stringent security, energy efficiency, business continuity and productivity optimisation needs. In addition, data centres are also required to accommodate unpredictable future loads, and long-term sustainability.

The application of cutting-edge technologies and innovation has become a burning issue in the design and construction of data centres. With the emergence of digital engineering and the widespread use of Building Information Modelling (BIM), modular design and prefabricated construction is becoming more prevalent, allowing scaling of facilities in line with demand and potential revenue growth as well as tenant requirements. Expansions and new builds, and their operations, will become more efficient and environmentally sustainable.

Case study A data centre configurator tool to enable efficient site selection and design

Aurecon conducted a Data Centre Development Sprint, bringing together programmers, data centre specialists, designers and leaders across the Aurecon business to create a data centre configurator tool to enable fast and efficient site selection and automated design of data centres.

We recently joined with world-leading AI specialist Archistar to develop a digital site selection tool specifically for the data centre sector to enable real-time feasibility studies to find suitable sites for locating new facilities. This is crucial for data centre owners and operators in the current climate of increasing data use and storage demand. The prototype is currently being tested with clients.

Play video BOTF-4 data centre video
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Key considerations essential for data centre design

These are the top 10 things you need to know about designing and delivering data centres.

Staged growth approach

Staged growth approach

A staged growth approach is essential to manage a current needs and prepare for the future, while avoiding costly stranded assets.

Data centre facilities management

Data centre facilities management

Early adoption of facilities management consideration is crucial for designing optimised, efficient and value-adding data centres that are prepared for future needs.

Modularisation

Modularisation

As data centres need to be more flexible, fit into tighter spaces in urban areas or be located in more remote locations, modular design brings high reliability, reduced project deployment time and robust construction and testing.

Minimise risk downtime

Minimise risk of ‘downtime’

With ‘the internet of everything’ no longer just a thing of the future, mission critical failures will not be an option. High risk implementation planning minimises the risk of down time.

flexible during design

Be flexible during design

Build space during the design phase: include different density zones in the site plan and provide flexibility in the white space zones to ensure expansion capability.

Renewable power options

Renewable power options

Renewable power is a growing ‘must have’ for data centres which use enormous volumes of electricity. Sites where renewable power is more readily accessible are becoming more popular.

Mix and match designs

Mix and match designs

There is an increased focus on application resiliency as opposed to the performance of specific buildings. A mix and match approach to facilitate balance between availability versus resilience, consideration of the tier rating, and the redundancy of the data centre is essential.

Direct cooled IT equipment

Direct cooled IT equipment

Increased processing power and the increase in output/watts used is bringing higher power densities, encouraging the use of immersion and direct cooled IT equipment options.

Converged infrastructure intelligence

Converged infrastructure intelligence

Data centre operators now need to treat their infrastructure as a single system and need to be able to measure and control their facilities. Converging the infrastructure instrumentation and control systems and connecting them to IT systems is essential.

Free cooling everywhere

Free cooling ‘everywhere’

Locations where 70 per cent of the time free cooling can be adopted, will become the ‘go-to’ locations. Underwater data centres? Not such a crazy idea, with Microsoft already testing such a concept.

Case study Turning existing buildings into data prosumers as well as consumers data centres into existing buildings

As part of Aurecon’s Design Academy, we partnered with RMIT and the University of Sydney to research and develop a proposition around integrating mini data centres into existing buildings. Utilising under-used space such as carparks or empty offices, using waste heat from HVAC systems as an energy source and incorporating liquid immersion cooling, such data centres could solve the challenges of data latency, rising data demand, high energy consumption and costs, carbon emissions and vacant CBD office space. It also provides an opportunity for asset owners to add value for tenants and generate additional revenue.

While integrating data centres back into existing buildings seems like going back to the future, technologies have improved significantly to make this proposition a viable consideration. We are currently discussing this opportunity with interested stakeholders.

Explore our insights

Case study Collaborating on integrated design to find solutions to complex problems

collaborating integrated design

Taking an integrated design approach is a powerful means of accessing diverse insights and skills to develop solutions to complex problems, particularly at the early stages of project development. This is an approach Aurecon takes on many projects, and recently partnered with the University of Melbourne; the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air conditioning and Heating (AIRAH), the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA); the Australian Energy Resources Assessment (AERA); Greenbox Architecture and NEXTDC to explore opportunities to use renewable energy to help achieve net zero carbon outcomes for data centres.

As part of a series of Integrated Design Studios (IDS), hosted by the Melbourne School of Design, the Innovation Hub for Affordable Heating and Cooling (i-Hub) provided a prototype approach of how engineers and architects work together to explore opportunities for improved technical performance of data centres to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions, while also maximising building amenity and community engagement.

How can Aurecon's data centre design innovation help you?

Engineers play a vital role in designing the data centre infrastructure of the future, and collaboration with industry partners is key to unlocking the innovation which will take data centres into the future.

Aurecon provides expertise in data centre development through years of experience working with some of the largest data centres developers, owners and operators worldwide. Our data centre team understands what is required to design and deliver a portfolio of data centre assets that will be resilient, safe, reliable and sustainable for the future.

But we have also gone one step further…we are pushing the boundaries by partnering with universities, industry, developers, owners and operators to not only ask 'What is' and 'What if', but to also ask 'What Wows'?

Contact one of our data centre team members to find out how.

data centre design innovation
Simon McFadden, Client Director for Data and Telco

Simon McFadden

Data & Telco Industry Director, Australia & New Zealand
Adrian Jenkins

Adrian Jenkins

Major Projects Director, Data Centres – Australia & New Zealand
+852 36646817
Phil Motteram – Client Director, Asia Data and Telco, Asia

Phil Motteram

Industry Leader, Buildings – SA & VIC
Steven Lee, Aurecon

Steven Lee

Director of Operations, Buildings – Singapore
+65 64129639
Felix Chan, Aurecon

Felix Chan

Technical Director, Buildings Telco – Hong Kong
+852 36646830
Simon Prebble, Aurecon

Simon Prebble

Principal, Infrastructure Advisory, New Zealand
+64 4 4390324

Data centres expertise

Aurecon provides advisory, data centre design, delivery, project and asset management services on projects across a range of markets, in locations worldwide.

These services include:

Learn more from our projects

NEXTDC M2 Data Centre, Melbourne

Aurecon's building design team worked closely with NEXTDC’s engineers to design and construct Victoria’s largest and most resilient Tier IV certified data centre.

Equinix Data Centre ME1

Equinix appointed Aurecon as Principal Consultant on the design and construction of Equinix ME1, a mission critical colocation data centre facility in Melbourne.
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