Achieving successful Digital Transformation is a complex task and data centre managers must implement innovative strategies which ensure availability, scalability and more importantly, sustainability. Sanjay Kumar Sainani, Global SVP of Business Development & Global CTO for the Digital Power Business at Huawei Technologies, discusses the tech giant’s strategy for successful data centre innovation and tells us how Huawei plays an integral role in supporting the Digital Transformation journey of the Middle East.
Can you discuss the scope of your responsibility at Huawei?
I’m responsible for the global business development of our data centre business, as well as driving innovation in our data centre solutions.
What are the biggest current challenges for data centre or infrastructure managers in the Middle East and how are you addressing these?
The challenges are pretty much the same globally. The Middle East is unique in terms of the weather conditions, cost and availability of energy. The main challenges of the data centre facility business are speed to market as the rapid pace of Digital Transformation fuelled by technology such as 5G, cloud and Big Data is driving up demand of data centres around the world, including the Middle East.
Data sovereignty and performance are also causing a scramble – especially within financial institutions and governments – to build or lease more data centre space.
Globally, around 12 GW of data centres are expected to come online within the next 60 months. That’s a 100% increase over the current data centre footprint.
Density per cabinet is also on the rise. With new workloads, better processing capabilities in terms of CPU and GPU, the demand of power per cabinet is increasing. With data centre sizes becoming very large, we are now dealing in dozens of MW of data centres and a few hundred MW per campus. This is making data centres a significant consumer of energy within the country and is drawing attention to its carbon footprint. With most of the countries globally – including in the Middle East – signing off on zero carbon targets by 2030, we are on a collision course between the huge growth of digital infrastructure and carbon footprint goals.
Another challenge is talent. With so much growth, finding the right talent and the right experience is not always easy. Adding automation to the data centre will help alleviate the resource challenges.
Can you tell us about your strategy for successful data centre innovation?
Within the facility space, we’ve been mainly innovating in four areas. Making data centres scalable and flexible and deliverable in the shortest possible time – to do this we have been innovating with prefabricated and modular construction practices.
Innovation in the power train of the data centre is focused on making power more available, efficient and green. High-efficient Modular UPS coupled with LFP batteries, pre-integrated in Prefab Modules allows us to bring simplicity and efficiency to the data centre.
Cooling is the third area of our innovation. Cooling has undergone rapid changes in the last few years – driven by the density per cabinet. Cooling requirements in the Middle East are very different than that in Finland and Singapore. So, we’re focused on bringing different cooling techniques for the right geography while making it efficient and converged.
Finally, we’re bringing in our experience of cloud, AI and automation within the data centre space to improve resource utilisation.
So, these are the four directions within which we tend to focus on to improve availability of data centres, improve the cost performance of the data centre and, more importantly, improve the data centre across its life cycle.
How does Huawei play an integral role in supporting the Digital Transformation journey of the Middle East?
There’s been a tremendous acceleration in Digital Transformation across the whole world and the Middle East is no different. In fact, not so long ago, a research survey revealed that almost 65% of the CIOs in this area have brought forward their digital roadmaps by one year or more, and organisations are willing to spend more time in delivering on strategic mandates, converse technologies, data and business ecosystems. At the end of the day, this is what will drive the digital enterprise of the future.
Huawei cuts across all these domains within the Digital Transformation exercise. At our end, the strategy is to look at this whole element as an iterative process. On one hand, the transformation has become an industry consensus and the focus has shifted, not from whether or not to go digital, but how you go digital. At Huawei, our role is to help enterprise customers innovate models, improve quality efficiency, enhance experience, strengthen resilience, to help our customers make progress on this digital journey.
Can you highlight any recent data centre projects that have taken place in this region and the benefits that customers have realised?
In the last three years, Huawei has signed up around 150 MW of data centres as an EPC contractor just in the Middle East region. We’ve constructed another 120+ MW of data centres for our own Huawei cloud business. So, there’s a lot of experience in terms of deploying and delivering these data centres. In terms of how our customers have benefitted, I go back to the challenges we talked about; being able to get the data centre up and running in the shortest possible time is key to most of our customers. At Huawei, our pre-fabricated modular construction approach has benefitted customers in being able to complete the whole design and build of the data centre within 12-15 months, which is about half the time compared to the traditional approach. This improves Return on Investment (RoI) as well as the return on capital employed. So that’s something our customers are demanding.
Energy efficiency is key to our customers. They benefit from the improved PUE, which is offered from highly efficient power trains, including very highly efficient modular UPSs with 97%+ efficiency, coupled with high efficiency cooling architectures.
The converged cooling solution from Huawei, based on customer’s feedback, is helping them to reduce 25% of the O&M costs and footprint.
How does increased demand for sustainability impact your own innovation strategy?
Our innovation strategy is all about leveraging power electronics and digital technologies to enable a sustainable growth of this digital economy. We believe that sustainability is key for power generation to use renewables. Power generation with solar will soon overtake pretty much any other renewable energy source because it’s convenient, easy to deploy, cost-effective and solar energy is in abundance. So, one of our key elements of our strategy is from a sustainability point of view: how do we help the industry leverage more renewables, especially in the form of solar?
The second area that’s very important is energy storage. Most renewables are not able to provide energy consistently throughout the day and month. With Huawei’s grid scale lithium-ion batteries, we are on the way to becoming one of the largest players in utility grade energy storage systems. We believe this is going to help our clients to make solar and renewables more reliable and therefore consume more renewables, helping to reduce the carbon footprint.
What will the data centre of the future look like?
Across almost all spectrums of our life and our work and play, we will be interacting with digital tools and digital platforms. And so, we will be both consuming a lot of data and producing a lot of data. And all this data will have to move through networks and will have to be processed somewhere, analysed somewhere and so on. All of that is happening in data centres. So, one thing is very clear: that data centres will be almost everywhere.
Most of the conversations to date have been happening on the larger data centres because they are big and worth talking about. But we believe in the future, there will be almost an equal number of cloud or central data centres and of Edge data near Edge data centres. So, we’ll be looking at data centres in hundreds of thousands within the digital economy. That will bring new challenges, in terms of how we will power them and how we host them. We are going to look at data centres in many forms and shapes – and providing them with sustainable energy is going to be very interesting.
With carbon footprint targets and the aim of moving towards green hydrogen, we’ll see alternate fuel/energy moving into data centres, so that’s going to be the second area.
With better enhancement of materials and new technology, cooling could slowly move out of the data centre. If data centres can operate at 35-40 degrees Centigrade, then there’ll be no special cooling requirements that would make the workload and data centre efficiency from an energy point of view, much better.
We also believe with AI and Machine Learning, there’ll be a lot of automation in the data centre and the future of the data centre will truly be a network of autonomously-working ‘lights-out’ data centres.Click below to share this article