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Editor’s Question: How are data centre leaders optimising their infrastructure to meet Digital Transformation demands?

Editor’s Question: How are data centre leaders optimising their infrastructure to meet Digital Transformation demands?

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Digital Realty, a leading global provider of carrier and cloud-neutral data centre, colocation and interconnection solutions, recently announced the opening of its third data centre in Singapore.

The multi-story, 50-megawatt facility, known as Digital Loyang II or SIN12, is Digital Realty’s largest data centre in the country and will bring the company’s total committed investment to date in Singapore to over US$1 billion.

It will offer customers in APAC new avenues to connect, extend their reach and uncover new business opportunities, as well as offering enterprises the full spectrum of colocation services and enable them to scale their critical infrastructure on-demand within a connected data community.

We asked industry experts in the field about how data centre leaders are optimising their infrastructure to meet Digital Transformation demands.

Ehab Kanary, Vice President Emerging Markets Europe, Middle East and Africa, CommScope: “Data centre deployments are at the heart of most IT strategies. As such, having one that responds to the mission critical needs of the business is an essential pillar in supporting business goals. However, to do this, the network infrastructure needs to be designed in such a way as to anticipate new industry trends and standards, while serving the business needs in a highly agile fashion. The challenge the industry now faces is to maintain high levels of availability while offering faster responses to rapid changes in business, application and user demand. The best way to achieve this is to not only build in these requirements at the early stage of the design process, but also keep this principle central to the planning process throughout every stage of the infrastructure’s expansion.

“Good design is at the core of all high-performing data centres. Exploding demand for bandwidth is pushing data centre teams to rethink their network infrastructure as they look to increase port count and fibre density, increase lane capacities, reduce latency and prepare to migrate to higher speeds. Easier said than done. Even as data centres transition their fabrics from 10 and 40GbE to 25, 50 and 100GbE, standards have been developed for 400G, and committees are forming in readiness for 800G+. Judging by the Ethernet roadmap, the path forward is neither clear nor straight. Driven by the emergence of many new technologies — including more efficient modulation, new transmission schemes and new fibre types — data centre managers are faced with more choices than ever. Furthermore, as network complexity and fibre density increase, so do the challenges of documenting and tracking the connected environment. Migrating to faster speeds adds more components, cables and connections — all of which must be monitored and managed. Manually documenting the connected environment using spreadsheets is virtually impossible.

“As such, we are seeing a focus on the following:

  • An increased deployment of pre-terminated fibre cabling solutions providing high-quality factory-level optical losses in the field, while greatly reducing installation times in the data centre.
  • More interest and investment in automated infrastructure management (AIM) platforms and a better understanding of the ROI (and risk mitigation) associated with managing the physical layer.
  • Higher bandwidth requirements driving technologies such as highly dense rollable ribbon fibre trunks, to support core counts in the thousands per cable and better duct and pathway densities than can be achieved using matrix ribbon or traditional fibre cables.
  • An increasing need for purpose-built overhead fibre pathways which adequately manage cabling volumes and maintain an appropriate bend radius for fibre links.
  • Development of Very Small Form Factor (VSFF) connector types, such as the SN connector, to facilitate further increases in capacity in the data centre cabling plant at the patch panel and switch faceplate.

“Whether it’s to stay ahead of technology developments and new applications or to address cost-efficiency opportunities, data centre expansions and improvement projects are continuing around the world and it’s clear that organisations will continue to invest accordingly to ensure quality, performance and intelligence.”

Leigh Hall, Head of Data Centre Engagement, Vysiion: “The increasing reliance on technologies such as IoT, AI, hyperscale cloud ecosystems, Blockchain, HPC platforms and connectivity solutions, are all driving vast volumes of data. In fact, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are produced every single day and the number of IoT connections is predicted to double from 12 billion to 25 billion by 2022. That’s why the importance of data centres will not diminish any time soon and many more data centres will be required in the future to keep up with the increasing demand.

“But businesses need rapid access to this data; it must be instantly accessible, processable and available to the end-user whenever access is required, while at the same time remaining secure and meeting compliance standards. To keep up with the increasing pace of change, data centre leaders should adopt a just-in-time (JIT) approach to build the life cycle of a data centre, as integrating a modular design of the data centre allows for a repeatable construction process. Modular data centres are more cost-effective than fixed installations as they match the IT needs and investment budget at any given time, meaning it has the ability to respond to innovation or bespoke requests as quickly as possible. They also allow for more rapid deployment in the future and provide an easy way to expand existing data centres. For example, hyperscale cloud providers are ravenous consumers of data centre space and while they build and manage data centres themselves, they have to procure data centre facilities from other providers too. However, these are tough customers as they have very precise requirements and are a dominant force in the market. This is why data centre providers must be able to meet these requirements exactly, in order to win this business.

“The hyperscalers are mainly focused on achieving vast capacity at the cheapest possible price. They require far greater power density per square metre and larger data halls. Therefore, the mechanical and electrical infrastructure needs to be able to deliver and support this requirement. This means the data centre infrastructure has to be ‘beefed up’, for example through larger energy centres, bigger transformers and higher density network fibre. The location of the data centres is also very important when it comes to meeting the requirements of the hyperscalers. The ‘storage’ data centres need to be within a predetermined distance, approximately 25 km from the availability zones, and triangulated to form the ‘brain’ of the public cloud service.    

“But of course, we can’t forget that data centres are huge consumers of energy; with the launch of 5G, the new wave of IoT devices and a booming cryptocurrency scene only aggravating the situation further. So, as data centre leaders look to optimise their infrastructure, it’s vital that they make strides to become as efficient as possible and reduce their carbon footprint. This can be done by aiming to use renewable electricity instead of diesel generators. The ongoing trend for hyperscale data centre construction should be seen as an opportunity for the industry to lead with an energy-efficient design from the get-go.”

James Hart, CEO, Business Critical Solutions: “First and foremost, it’s important to understand that the IT infrastructure and operations are absolutely critical to any Digital Transformation and therefore should be at the heart of any decisions. As a result, leaders in IT infrastructure and operations are morphing into business enablers and are now increasingly key to any business strategy. We are seeing an integration of physical and virtual roles into one digital platform that interconnects data with different ecosystems tailored to business requirements.    

“In order to support Digital Transformation, we are seeing greater numbers of enterprises migrating their data centres to the cloud and there is no doubt that cloud continues to dominate the sector, with hyperscalers that are designed to expand rapidly and host cloud services unlikely to slow down because of increased investment in public cloud services due to the pandemic. This is helping companies transform, enabling them to become more agile, highly responsive and increasingly more adaptive than ever before. However, one size does not fit all and so many leaders are looking to hybrid systems where enterprises mix in-house computing with the movement of larger systems to the cloud.

“The main lesson here is that leaders need to consider data centre models that reflect how we now live in a world where on-premises data centres, private clouds and public clouds interconnect and act symbiotically. Traditional data centres based on the siloed approach and heavily reliant on physical hardware and servers need to be transformed dramatically to facilitate this. New models need to adapt by offering solutions that facilitate speed and agility while not diminishing the high standards of governance that already exist.

“We are seeing traditional approaches being remodelled to achieve the flexibility and optimisation businesses require to operate across different industries, site-specific workloads, evolving partner ecosystems, computing at the Edge such as Internet of Things (IoT), and data sovereignty.

“According to Gartner, ‘By 2022, 60% of enterprise IT infrastructures will focus on centres of data, rather than traditional data centres’. This is a consequence of data being distributed and managed throughout the infrastructure right to the edge of technology and geography. Greater investment is required in external solutions rather than those on-premises moving forward.

“Finally, power is now a major consideration with Digital Transformation – a driver in the increasing demand which is currently outstripping energy efficiency gains that are embedded in new designs. In turn, this will determine a shift to sustainable power as energy usage is increasingly under the spotlight and there are societal pressures for carbon-neutral operations. There is a greater emphasis on alternative power sources such as wind and solar as well as the use of battery storage and there are some exciting innovations such as new hydrogen cell technology that are showing some early, promising results. Those organisations that embrace sustainability as part of their Digital Transformation will reap the benefits.”

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