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The Evolution of Data Centre Design: From Legacy to Sustainable Solutions

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By Saurabh Rai, CEO, Arahas Technology

In this digital era, data centres have become the backbone of the global economy, backing up the exponential growth of digital resources, distributed applications, and the ever-increasing demand for data processing. According to market intelligence firm IDC, human errors in handling and processing data cost the average multinational corporation an estimated $62.4 million annually. Moreover, a recent study by the Uptime Institute highlights that over 70% of all data centre outages are caused by human error, rather than infrastructure faults, with the average cost of IT downtime being $5,600 per minute and as much as $540,000 per hour, as reported by Gartner. To navigate this dynamic landscape, data centre design has undergone a remarkable evolution, transitioning from legacy systems to more sustainable and efficient solutions.

The Growth of Data Centres

The relentless growth of digital resources, social media, and the utilisation of data centres by businesses has driven the expansion of the data centre infrastructure market. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global data centre infrastructure market size is projected to reach $142.31 billion by 2027, compared to $94.56 billion in 2019. The digital era has also prompted organisations to leverage advanced technologies like cloud computing and Big Data, making it cost-effective for them to partner with colocation data centres. This shift allows companies to remain agile, support a distributed business environment, and stay competitive in the global market.

Challenges in the Data Centre Landscape

However, as the reliance on data centre solutions continues to grow, it brings along a set of emerging challenges that affect both hyperscale colocation sites and traditional enterprise data centres. Some of these challenges include:

  1. Data Acquisition and Normalisation: Data is transmitted using various protocols and may have multiple codes or names for the same element, making it difficult to manage.
  2. Disaggregated Data and No Insights: Data is distributed across different subsystems without correlation, making it challenging to measure and track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
  3. Unclear Root Causes: Determining the root causes of operational issues can be time-consuming when trying to bring together data and insights.
  4. Non-Standard Operations: Standard workflow procedures may not exist, which can lead to issues when problems arise.
  5. Non-Scalable Solutions and Closed Systems: Rapidly growing demands require scalable and adaptable solutions that can keep up with expansions and retrofits.
  6. Lack of Direct Visibility into New Assets: Legacy Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) systems struggle to keep up with the influx of new devices and assets, requiring manual work to add them.
  7. Lack of Visibility into Distributed Architecture and the Edge: Many small edge IT installations lack staffing, leading to limited visibility and accessibility to these distributed assets.
  8. Administrator Fatigue: Overwhelming data can slow down data centre administrative processes, leading to challenges like alarm fatigue, swivel chair analysis, and human error-related outages.

The Transition from Legacy to Modern

To meet the evolving digital requirements, organisations are increasing their investments in data centres and cloud systems. In 2020, data centres played a crucial role in keeping people connected, but this increased reliance on critical infrastructure also led to operational challenges. Many data centre leaders are now shifting their focus from firefighting to creating more value in their infrastructure.

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, the data centre landscape will see a significant shift. With the transformation of data centre resources and applications, organisations will need to ensure optimal performance, efficient infrastructure management, and enhanced productivity.

Impact of Digital Modernisation on Physical Infrastructure Management

Leaders in the IT and business sectors understand the critical role of physical infrastructure in digital modernisation efforts. Without a data centre management strategy and the right technology foundation, modernisation projects will face significant challenges. Several key trends are emerging in this modernisation journey:

Distributing Computing: Edge, 5G, IoT, and more. The emergence of 5G technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) are driving connectivity to new levels. 5G, in particular, has gained traction, with the market for 5G infrastructure surpassing $4 billion, and two-thirds of companies deploying 5G in 2020, as reported by Gartner.

Sustainability Matters: Sustainability is not just an environmental concern; it is also an excellent business strategy. Studies have shown that greener businesses perform better in the digital economy. Deploying data centre management systems that focus on power and thermal monitoring, improving Power Usage Efficiency (PUE), and reducing power and cooling costs is essential. Furthermore, using green technologies at the component level and enhancing visibility into these systems can lead to real-time adjustments for improved uptime and efficiency.

As data centres evolve to meet the demands of the digital age, addressing these challenges and embracing sustainability will be paramount. The transformation from legacy to sustainable solutions is not only necessary but also an opportunity to enhance the efficiency, reliability, and environmental impact of data centres in an increasingly connected world.

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