15 Jul 2019

Capability and Innovation Drive Change and Opportunity

How Digital Transformation is Changing our Industry

Our industry is changing rapidly, the majority of new build data centres have moved away from the monolithic over resourced warehouses. The era of redundant technical space, over resourced power, complex and expensive mechanical equipment for keeping the IT suites cool and the lights on, is finally making way for more intelligent designs. The current direction of movement is towards ‘how does the building, infrastructure and processes support the current wave of digital transformation’?

The new wave of data centres is the bridge to the customer’s innovation and creativity in product and services, while of course helping ourselves and our customers stay at the bleeding edge of technology and demonstrate increased sustainability credentials. As an industry we must step away from the past and be conversant with the technologies, processes and requirements that our most innovative partners and customers are exploiting to gain advantage in the market. It is only in this way that we can maintain the resource that the digital economy requires.

We need to partner with, rather than be a storehouse for, our customers data and processing requirements. The data centre is the facilitator to future innovation, for example, linking researchers to disease therapy data, and using new analytic techniques and compute power to develop new cures. This requires new operational processes and our industry must take the next steps, which may be outside the norm, in order to facilitate the environments where AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning applications can evolve.

New trends in data centre engineering, led by OCP (Open Compute Project) and the hyperscale market are demonstrating reductions in space requirements, increased performance and reduced energy use for equipment. Together with innovations in building design and construction techniques, we are witnessing far greater high-performance systems in smaller spaces. This technological evolution is the impetus to the application revolution that will drive digital transformation. Our Harlow site’s OCP-Ready TM design supports the additional weight constraint for submerged cooling technologies that are essential for the latest highly dense processor configurations. Imagine, chest freezer sized leak-free cabinets, brimming with processors and immersed in thermally conductive dielectric liquid to cool them, and providing the processing power of super computers.

This technology is breaking down long-held attitudes that liquid in the technology suite is a recipe for disaster. Obviously, there are operational risks, which must be considered however, today’s server manufacturing capabilities negate that risk. Within a couple of years, we believe that the tipping point between air-cooled and liquid-cooled IT spaces will be passed, and up to 80-percent of compute power in our technology suite will be liquid-cooled, either submerged baths or hybrid, direct chip liquid filled heatsinks. Technology advances like this, will ultimately influence the design of the data centre and the operational considerations including cooling and energy use, and we believe that it will result in increased efficiency, lower PUE and improved sustainability. These technologies will provide for the needs of AI and Machine Learning and the capability to crunch through the lakes of data these applications will process.

With the immense data transfers required for AI, Machine Learning and new not-yet developed applications, data centres must have the capability to do on-board processing on-site and have the dedicated fibre connectivity to satisfy the most bandwidth hungry requirements with minimal latency. As the global connected world generates increasing volumes of traffic the connectivity requirements for this data loading becomes a defining requirement. When completed, the Harlow campus will offer the capability of four 8.8MW data centres with access to local, national and international dedicated connectivity routes. We are also investing in high fibre count data routes that will create a high-performance data ‘hub and route’ network interconnecting London and the hyperscale locations of Dublin and Amsterdam, ensuring customer data communications requirements are provisioned for the foreseeable future.

The network of interconnected data centres has become the new global utility, providing a competitive and stable priced market which benefits suppliers and customers. The changing data centre model, with higher performance capability aligned to simplified structures, offer far more flexibility to the customer. Working together with manufacturers, connectivity suppliers and customers the modern data centre industry offers scalable and high availability of hyperconverged infrastructure. If, competitive advantage is not your requirement, there will still be less efficient legacy data centres still available into the next decade, but for the rest of us change is good.

Gerard Thibault

Gerard Thibault is Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at Kao Data and over his 40-year career has built over 150MW of data centre space across 24 sites globally.


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