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Efficiency the name of the game in data centre landscape

Wed, 1st Feb 2023
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Efficiency is the name of the game in the data centre landscape in 2023, according to new predictions from CommScope.

CommScope has released its predictions on data centre trends to watch in 2023. 

According to Matias Peluffo, Asia Pacific Vice President for Building and Data Center Connectivity, CommScope, the last few years have introduced unprecedented business conditions for every industry, but among the most heavily affected are cloud-based services that are run by the global network of data centres. 

"The business model has changed to accept new realities and fulfil new obligations – and extrapolating this recent history into the near future is an uncertain exercise at best," he says.

"Nevertheless, it is of vital interest that we do gain as clear a perspective as possible, because more of the world depends on cloud services, and by extension, data centre operations than ever before. If there is one thing we know the future holds, its that our dependence on them is going to increase."

An unprecedented one-two-three punch

According to Peluffo, the challenge is that over recent years the baseline has continued to move. 

"First, the world was rocked by global COVID-19 lockdowns and the overnight reality of hundreds of millions of people working and learning from home," he says. "This shift threw immense pressure onto data centres to handle high-bandwidth video and other cloud-based applications over a much more widely distributed area.

"Then came the worldwide supply chain disruptions and labour shortages, making it hard for data centres to build out additional capacity because they couldn't find critical components or the skilled people to install and run them," Peluffo says.

"And most recently, global inflation and spiking energy prices, exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, have forced companies and nations alike to further rearrange their supply chains and make adjustments to continue operating persistently elevated energy costs. 

"Note that these are world events that aren't even exclusive to the business of data centres. In addition, the growing social and commercial role of back-end data centre processing and storage has presented just as many challenges."

Doing more, in more places, with less margin for error

Consider all the new applications that rely on capable, reliable data centre support to operate, says Peluffo. 

"For instance, there is the mobile app ordering at your local restaurant, the high-speed robots in a warehouse picking your online order just minutes after you hit Check Out and even the driving assist-equipped vehicle in the next lane. The speed and volume of data being generated, processed and transported by these applications and countless others is growing exponentially. 

"The world cannot afford downtime, no matter if the consequence is a delayed lunch order or compromising the full efficacy of a 5G-connected driving-assist system," he says.

"Low-latency 5G is unlocking the bandwidthand just as important, the low latencythat many of these new and amazing applications require to work," says Peluffo. 

"All that gets piped to data centres, which are increasingly being moved to the edge of the network to shave those last few precious milliseconds off the response time reporter (RTR)."

Energy efficiency will drive data centre evolution in 2023

For all data centre environments, efficiency is not so much a metric for profitability as it is a metric for survival. 

"Whether a small to mid-sized multi-tenant data centre or a vast cloud or hyperscale deployment, the intense, simultaneous pressures of demand and expenses, particularly energy expenses, will determine its future," says Peluffo.

"The bottom line is that data centres must increase the efficiency of their delivery of services, using fibre and edge-based infrastructure, as well as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI)," he adds.

"And at the same time, they must increase the efficiency of operations, and that means reducing energy use per unit of compute power.

"Certainly, cost is the most obvious factor when weighing energy efficiency, but its by no means the only one. Data centres represent up to 4% of Australia's total energy consumption, according to Aurecon - thus becoming a greater driving force to bring down energy use and advance sustainability efforts in facilities for operators," Peluffo says.

"Some metropolitan areas are telling data centres that, in addition to concerns about data centres appearance, noise and water use, their energy-hungry business is not wanted. And in some cases, the area lacks available electrical grid capacity to host them. 

"Major IT companies are taking responsibility for the energy impacts of data centres through energy efficient design. However, the average Australian data centre is now over 20 years old and many are inefficiently designed, thus needing new digitisation upgrades, according to Government AU."

Peluffo adds, "Going into 2023, where we are dreading headlines from Europe and elsewhere about rolling blackouts and insufficient heating, both regulatory and social opinions will only tilt further away from data centre developers. 

"That is why it is so urgent that energy efficiency takes top priority and data centres make those critical upgrades."

These include:

  • Converting storage to the most efficient media, based on access time
  • Use detailed analytics to identify storage, compute, and power consolidation opportunities
  • Deploy ultra-efficient UPS systems
  • Re-evaluate the thermal limits of the centre itself
  • Consider colocation to share electrical and communications overhead
  • Accounting for stress on existing electrical grid and moving to more sustainable power, localised to the data centre

On a more strategic level, Peluffo says moving data centres to the edge of the network, connected by high-speed fibre, can improve energy efficiency as well as latency. 

"Also, consider locations where there is access to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, hydro and nuclear," he adds.

" For the largest cloud and hyperscale data centres, there is an opportunity to take advantage of localised power generation in various forms, to both power the data centre, and if excess power is generated, be provided back to the grid."

Efficiency flows downstream 

"While many may never appreciate the broader social and commercial impact a data centre has on the world, it is worth remembering how fast, robust data storage and processing can improve all of the most vital parts of our days, and indeed, our lives," Peluffo says. 

  • For instance, every day, the cloud-based services that data centres enable, help:
  • Employees to connect with each other and work efficiently from their homes, office, or while travelling
  • Farmers to plan, plant and harvest healthier crops while reducing wasted water and chemical applications
  • Factories to build, stock, manage and ship products with robotic labour that prevents countless workplace accidents and injuries
  • Ordinary people to create expressive user-created content that connects individuals across a school or around the planet in gaming, social media and the metaverse
  • Service providers to stream all kinds of entertainment and information content to homes, laptops and mobile devices in a seamless mesh of connectivity

"All of these examples, and countless others, demonstrate how much efficiency in our daily life depends on data centres, and that demonstrates how important energy efficiency will matter to those data centres in 2023 and beyond."

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