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Planning for Middle East data centres of tomorrow

Planning for Middle East data centres of tomorrow

DataData CentresDeep DiveMiddle EastPower & CoolingTop Stories

Data volumes globally are expected to increase from the 40 zettabytes recorded in 2019, to 180 zettabytes by 2025. Sanjay Kumar Sainani, SVP and CTO of Huawei Global Data Centre Facility Business, explains how data centres can be prepared to meet this future demand.

Data is an increasingly important commodity in the new economy. Data networks are becoming more essential as nations seek deeper co-operation and businesses seek more collaboration, especially during the current testing times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data volumes globally are expected to increase from the 40 zettabytes recorded in 2019, to 180 zettabytes by 2025 – representing growth of more than 400%. Data centres will be at the heart of this boom. Ensuring data centres are fully prepared to meet the future demand is a critical endeavour to support the new digital economy.

As such, data centres have undergone massive growth and discernible evolution, from humble beginnings as computer rooms (in KWs) for ICT to massive facilities (in MWs) to host cloud-based platforms. The rapid development and convergence of new technologies such as IoT, AI and cloud computing, is further adding to the massive growth in the data centre facility space.

While data centres have grown immensely in size, they have also become more complex. High-density ICT infrastructure is now gaining favour and this brings new challenges that must be overcome. At Huawei, our experience and expertise in offering turnkey data centre facility build have allowed us to work through many of these technical demands. Throughout the build process – from concept, planning, design, engineering, construction and operation and maintenance – we have seen how important it is to implement innovative technology. This must be supported by tested best practices, flexible architecture and efficient systems in order to build data centres that are intelligent, efficient and sustainable across their life cycle.

Based on these experiences, we have identified key trends that we believe will influence the evolution of data centres across the region, four of which are highlighted here:

Long-term sustainability

Data centres currently account for around 3% of the world’s total power consumption. This will increase as more facilities come into use. Energy savings, reductions in emissions and OPEX are major challenges faced by data centre operators that must be addressed. Analysts have recognised that advances in power and cooling are transforming enterprise data centres as never before. The use of clean energy and waste heat is a step in the right direction. Saving essential resources such as land, water and materials throughout the data centre life cycle is paramount to the sector’s growth. Moreover, innovation in power conversion and storage is opening up new opportunities. Modular power systems with single-module density of 100kW/3 U, twice that of previous industry standards, are reducing the footprint and CAPEX of mission-critical power infrastructure.

Effective cooling

Many of us in the region live in warm climates. When we talk about sustainability, it’s worthwhile to look specifically at effective cooling. Large-sized data centres generate considerable heat and usage of high-density ICT infrastructure produces more heat per rack. This trend will propel convergence of liquid and air-cooling technologies for effective and efficient cooling leading to increased adoption of indirect evaporative cooling. This is especially important in a region that experiences hot summers, such as the Middle East.

Scalable and future-proof architecture

The average tech evolution cycle of IT devices has been between three to five years, whereas a data centre infrastructure’s evolution cycle is 10 to 15 years. This demands a high degree of flexibility of data centre facility to support two to three evolution cycles of ICT devices. Elasticity, flexibility, scalability and time to deploy without burdening the CAPEX is becoming a major ask. We foresee a strong acceptance and growth of prefabricated modular data centre facilities which cut the construction period in half and allows a high degree of flexibility and scalability, thus leading to better CAPEX management and improved ROCE. This is becoming the mainstream construction approach by telecom carriers in the Middle East and elsewhere when building hyperscale and medium-sized data centres.

Full digitalisation and AI-enablement

The Middle East’s evolution towards digital infrastructure is accelerating, particularly the rapid adoption of AI applications. Data centres will benefit from this trend as more digitalisation gets embedded across the DC life cycle from planning and construction to O&M, energy management and resource optimisation. AI will be widely applied throughout the data centre facility to achieve efficiency and a higher degree of autonomous operation and life cycle management.

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