Transforming the data centre market with modularity

Transforming the data centre market with modularity

Ashraf Yehia, Managing Director, Eaton Middle East

Data centres face mounting challenges, from environmental concerns to supply chain disruptions and expanding outreach. Ashraf Yehia, Managing Director at Eaton Middle East, offers a compelling vision for the future of data centre construction in a digital age.

Data centres are the unsung heroes of our digital age, quietly supporting our daily activities and powering businesses worldwide. As the demand for data storage and processing skyrockets due to cloud adoption, IoT and AI applications, the data centre market faces unprecedented challenges. The need for continuous expansion, soaring energy consumption and environmental concerns are driving the industry towards innovative solutions. One such transformative approach is the adoption of modular data centres, offering a host of benefits that tackle these pressing issues head-on.

The growth in MENA and globally

The global data centre market has seen phenomenal growth in recent years, valued at US$466 billion in 2020 and predicted to nearly double by 2030. Meanwhile, the Middle East and North Africa data centre market is estimated at US$3.4 billion in 2022 and is forecasted to reach US$10.4 billion by 2028, growing at an impressive rate of 20.4%. The data centre market is primarily driven by increasing investment and the growing cloud computing market. The cloud market is becoming more competitive in the region, especially in the UAE.

This upward trajectory is closely tied to the explosive growth of data creation and consumption, expected to reach a staggering 175 zettabytes globally by 2025. However, this growth is not without its challenges.

The increased demand for data processing and storage is driving a massive 400% increase in electricity consumption by 2030, primarily for powering and cooling computational hardware. Already accounting for between 1-4% of global electricity use, data centres face mounting environmental and sustainability pressures.

Environmental concerns and sustainability initiatives

The environmental impact of data centres is a growing concern. The process of training AI models alone contributes to approximately 25 tons of CO2 emissions, with an additional 25 tons generated during hardware production and ongoing operation, equivalent to 60 flights between London and New York. Acknowledging this ecological burden, data centre operators are committing to sustainability initiatives.

The European-based Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, initiated in January 2021, brings together over 40 companies and trade organisations with the shared goal of achieving climate neutrality for data centres by 2030. Governments, too, are stepping in, proposing stricter regulations on energy efficiency and demanding sustainability reporting from data centre operators. UAE, one of the leading data centre countries in the GCC, is aiming to reduce its carbon emissions by 31% by 2023. Saudi Arabia is aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2060.

Navigating supply chain disruption and geopolitical challenges

The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have cast a shadow on global supply chains, affecting the availability of critical resources essential for data centre construction. Semiconductors and base metals, crucial components for data centres, are particularly impacted, making sourcing difficult and expensive.

To mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities, data centre operators are increasingly exploring secondary cities in major economic nations and the capitals of smaller economic nations. While this offers growth opportunities, it also presents unique challenges, such as unfamiliar regulatory environments, limited site availability and a shortage of skilled labour.

The modularity advantage: A flexible and sustainable solution

In response to these mounting challenges, a revolutionary approach has emerged – modular data centres. These prefabricated, pre-engineered and pre-integrated units provide a flexible and scalable solution to data centre construction. By adopting a ‘plug and play’ approach, modular data centres reduce the reliance on on-site engineers, speeding up the construction process and optimising efficiency.

The benefits of modularity extend beyond just rapid deployment. Modular data centres inherently support sustainable practices. The integration of grid-interactive uninterruptible power supplies empowers data centres to contribute back to the grid, providing auxiliary power energy services when needed. This energy control not only reduces operational costs but also enables operators to participate in renewable energy initiatives.

Predictable capital expenditures (CAPEX) and predetermined specifications further enhance the attractiveness of modular data centres. By using under-utilised or non-traditional buildings, operators can efficiently scale their operations without needing to secure new real estate. This adaptability ensures a favourable return on investment and a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving market.

A compelling future: Modular data centres in the digital age

As businesses increasingly operate in a digitally driven economy, the demand for scalable, resilient and sustainable data centres continues to surge. Embracing the modularity approach, data centre operators can address environmental concerns, supply chain disruptions and expansion challenges effectively. While the traditional brick-and-mortar approach remains relevant, modular data centres emerge as a compelling solution, offering expert system engineering, scalability, safety and sustainability all in one comprehensive package.

The data centre market faces a pivotal moment, with demands for expansion, energy efficiency and environmental responsibility driving the need for transformative solutions. Embracing the modular approach enables data centre operators to navigate these challenges, offering flexibility, sustainability and cost-effectiveness. In this digital age, modular data centres pave the way for a resilient and competitive future, ensuring the seamless and sustainable growth of our digital infrastructure.

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