Data Center Providers Need To Look at Sustainability Holistically

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AI and ML help automate the movement of workloads to the most efficient infrastructure in real-time inside a data center as well as with hybrid-cloud architectures. With the help of AI, IT departments will be able to predict disruptions and unplanned downtime, and potentially minimize its impact on a business. We interviewed Mr. Nitin Gavade Director, Offering Management Global Edge + Racks & ITMS to know more about AI/ML led automation.

TimesTech: Could you provide an overview of Vertiv and its data center solutions portfolio?

Nitin: Vertiv is a digital infrastructure provider that brings together hardware, software, analytics, and ongoing services to ensure its customers’ vital applications run continuously, perform optimally, and grow with their business needs. Vertiv helps resolve some of the most critical challenges facing today’s data centers, communication networks, and commercial and industrial facilities. We have a versatile portfolio of power, cooling, and IT infrastructure solutions and services that extends from the cloud to the edge of networks. 

With the growing reliance on data centers, secure and dependable data center networking has become vital. As business models are increasingly becoming hybrid, secure network connections are critical, and network continuity will become even more important. Taking cognizance of this, Vertiv has been assisting businesses with its variety of technology solutions.

Our data center portfolio includes prefabricated modular solutions, network closets, micro data centers, edge data centers, core data centers, thermal and power solutions, uninterruptible power solutions (UPS), IT management, along with colocation and cloud solutions. We help businesses maximize efficiency, deliver flexibility, and ensure scalability with customized pre-tested and pre-integrated data centers, and ease the process of expanding core data centers and critical facility capacities. By developing and delivering scalable, tailored data centers that expedite deployment, limit risk, and control costs, our global solutions enable new possibilities at the edge. Some of our brands include- Alber, Avocent, Chloride, Geist, Liebert, and NetSure among others. 

TimesTech: What impact has the use of emerging tech like AI/ML/automation had on the data center industry?

Nitin: The past two years have seen an increase in data creation and consumption due to acceleration of digital transformation, including remote and hybrid working. As a result, enterprises’ dependence on data centers has become critical, leaving limited to no scope for any downtime. Here’s where technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and automation come into play. According to a recent AFCOM poll, 40% of data center providers said they planned to deploy robots or automation software in their facilities over the next 3 years. Data centers can leverage AI and automation to predict potential power outages, track network performance metrics, and quickly action backup measures. 

With a combination of IT automation, AI and ML, data centers can also be provided with additional cooling power when required, reducing the instances of an outage. Additionally, data center managers will be able to automate certain data-driven tasks and help data centers reduce and evenly distribute workloads, in order to manage servers efficiently. 

The countrywide lockdowns during COVID led to data centers being understaffed in terms of on-site personnel and engineers to troubleshoot and handle any unanticipated difficulties. While AI has aided in the remote management of data centers, automation, combined with Machine Learning and analytics, can enable data center administrators to discover irregularities and inefficiencies in real time, allowing for more effective operations.

TimesTech: The data center market in India has grown exponentially these past couple of years, what trends have you witnessed, and what potential do you see for the industry? 

Nitin: Data centers are clearly becoming a critical requirement across industries. According to a report by the credit rating agency CRISIL, data center capacity in India is expected to double to about 1700 to 1800 megawatts (MW) by fiscal 2025 from 870 MW in fiscal 2022. This is a result of the data explosion, the uptick in digital adoption and local data storage mandates. The Union Finance Minister gave the data center market “infrastructure” status in the 2022 budget, making it easier for data center providers to receive adequate financing to better manage their resources. Additionally, many state governments have plans for or are already investing in the development of additional data center capabilities. For instance, Telangana and Maharashtra offer special approvals for the construction of data centers along with incentives for land and power use. 

In the beginning of the year Vertiv followed up a 2021 Edge Report by revealing results from an Edge Survey. The survey highlighted the anticipated dramatic acceleration in actions to address sustainability and navigate the climate crisis, particularly with regard to the data center market at the network edge. 

About a third (34%) of those surveyed are either planning or in the midst of significant edge deployments. A quarter already have deployed new, purpose-built edge sites, and 41% are operating legacy edge sites. All the activity at the edge is striking, but survey participants also anticipate a 150% increase in core sites and increased activity in the cloud. 

The survey also revealed the changing profile of the modern edge site. Twenty-nine percent of sites feature between 5 and 20 racks, and 13% have more than 20 racks. More racks mean more power, and the survey results reflect that: 28% say their sites require between 21 and 200 kW, and 14% report power demands more than 200 kW. The days of single racks tucked away in rudimentary IT closets are over. 

Sustainability is playing a major role in new and planned edge deployments. More than three-quarters of sites (77%) are using or planning to use energy-efficient UPS systems. In addition, 40% are planning to use renewable energy; 31% water-efficient cooling; 29% dynamic grid support technologies; and 19% refrigerants with a low global warming potential (GWP).

TimesTech: With organizations across the globe focusing on sustainability, what are some of the things data center providers are doing to “go green”?

Nitin: With both public and private organizations digitally transforming their businesses, especially post COVID, data centers have become an integral part of this journey. It is therefore imperative that we as a country, scale our data center capabilities and make the shift to energy efficient solutions as part of their sustainability strategy. 

In addition, Indian organizations are constantly working to expand their ability to leverage renewable energy sources. An ICRA estimate suggests that in FY23 India would install roughly 16 gigawatts of renewable energy producing capacity. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has committed to double India’s non-fossil fuel power generating capacity to 500 Gw and derive half of its energy needs from renewable sources by the end of this decade. Data centers consume large amounts of energy, so apart from switching to renewable energy plants, data center providers need to look at sustainability more holistically, from sustainable building material to construction and energy efficiency. Among trending efficiency trends, some high density data centers are beginning to adopt liquid cooling solutions to help reduce the energy required to cool data centers.   

TimesTech: How will the deployment of 5G in India impact the data center market?

Nitin: Increasing technology adoption and digital transformation has led to an enormous increase in the amount of data being produced, stored and analysed. The much-awaited 5G deployment in India is predicted to further create large amounts of data benefitting the data center business immensely, and attracting significant investments in the industry.

However, the data center industry needs to prepare itself for this growth and may need to upgrade their current infrastructure to meet the additional loads that 5G will create, in order to help decrease latency. New loads may require improved connectivity in core data centers, or may be located in network edge sites to enhance latency. It is important therefore, that data centers, evaluate both hardware and software to enable greater productivity and seamless data transfer.