data center industry

Data center of the future

Dataquest recently organized a webinar on the data center  of the future. Subhendu Parth, Editor, Dataquest, was the moderator. The participants were:


Ashok MN, Director and Regional Sales Head STT GDC India
Umesh Pandey, Senior Director, IT, Radisys Corp.
Harish HS, Director, Infosec
Subrat Kumar Kanungo, Director and Head IT, Samsung Semiconductors India

Parth asked about the impact of Covid-19 and the rapid digitization that followed. The lockdown has also changed the dynamics of the IT infrastructure. How are the IT heads looking at all this?

Umesh Pandey said we are all aware of the Covid-19 situation, and nobody had anticipated the challenges. One fine day we all went virtual. Some of the things were very critical, such as bandwidth for access to the data center, resources through the VPN.

There was a lot of movement away from tier 1 cities, and work also happened via the native places. Data security was also important. The same device is with the employees 24/7. Patching them in the low bandwidth environment was challenging. Power availability was another challenge. We also looked at providing a virtual working environment in the cloud. We continued to do business, ensuring we were connected with our own people through virtual conferencing.

Parth asked whether they faced any major data center-related challenges? Pandey said that there were some challenges as there were people who needed to visit the data centers physically, manage backup, etc. There were some operational challenges. Some of the workload was also on the cloud. We had a lot of access in the hybrid cloud environment, take permissions, etc. Being in the cloud would have helped a lot.

Harish HS said that we work in the IT infrastructure background, and IT advisory and security services. There are two types of clients they came across. Some were ready to do WFH, but not at full capacity. Some of the clients were not at all ready. Those who are not ready have put all stops to the employees residences. Another category was semi-ready, but not to the full capacity. They have a challenge to scale up.

Another category was where some companies had already implemented virtual desktops in the backend of their cloud. They were able to scale up quickly. Creating virtual desktops did not take much time. They were in good shape. Going forward, everything will move to the data center so that managing and scaling would be easy. They can also scale back when people start returning to the office.

Ashok MN shared his views from a solution perspective. STT GDC managed and maintained the operations of all data centers globally. There was focus on standard operation and management, disaster recovery, etc. Most of the engineers provided 24/7 comfort to the data center users to maintain and manage critical infrastructure. On scalability, with high demand for computing and digitalization from most of the customers, we managed to get all scalability requests, and maintained and provided. There was not much of man movement. Off late, data services have come under the essentials category. We managed to get all IT equipment in the data center. We also extended support to the increased demand for the IT services. We catered to the requirements of customers.

A sudden surge of the Internet also happened at that time. We managed to get the high level of Internet penetration into our data center. We distributed loads across multiple cities. We work with multiple clients to cater to their expansion plans. We managed during the lockdown and pre-lockdown eras. We built in redundancy and resiliency.

Parth asked about 2-3 CIO challenges. Ashok said there was the scalability aspect. Do we have enough space available in the data center? Another was the Internet penetration. Was the data center capable of managing the sudden surge in data and Internet? There was also the logical security, besides the physical security. We looked at how to mitigate the logical security aspects.

Future requirements
Now that we are moving towards the 5G era, perhaps, the bandwidth challenges can be sorted out in tier 1 cities and villages. Organizations now need to re-imagine the data center play. How ready are the enterprises to meet the future requirements?

Umesh Pandey said there may be infrastructure challenges that may not be in our control. Especially in creating a good broadband connection or having a good broadband network! Those things may not be in our control. There are certain things we also need to be thinking about, such as how to utilize machinery and systems 24/7. We need to focus here. We need to ensure there is a lot of distribution and infrastructure availability. We also need to scale up, as needed. If there is less demand, how can we contract our infrastructure. We have to be ready to meet all of these, going forward. We may have limited space and limited challenges. If we can get good support from the government, the challenges will be much easier to handle. Security scaling and we are compliant, we have to be ready.

Harish HS said as part of the expansion plans, some people have already moved to the cloud, and some others are on the public cloud. Due to the availability of cloud, it is easier to migrate to the cloud. The challenge is whether we have the skillsets and the competency to migrate this load, and to secure the systems, and the data. CSPs take the security responsibility, but security is always a shared responsibility. Many clients are yet to be ready to upskill their employees to secure their infrastructure, systems, and data, and be compliant to the regulatory norms. The challenge lies in their competency.

Key ingredients for the data center of the future are people, capital and availability of resources, as per Ashok MN. There are also things like power, land availability, Internet, etc. The government of India has the data center policy that enables us to provide more digitalization. Recently, multiple MoUs were also signed. Hence, we have got good support from the government. On the capital side, we are committed to invest more. We are geared up to provide an enhanced capital infrastructure capability for the Indian data centers. We will be doubling our capacity in India over the next couple of years. We may be getting a little challenged on the skillsets. We are trying to make use of the best technological skillsets available. That will enable us to fulfill timely HR requirements.

We are also looking at operational excellence. We continue to provide the best operational excellence across our data centers. We manage and maintain 100% of our time across all of our data centers.

Regarding the re-imagining of the data center, Subrat Kumar Kanungo said the whole world is changing. We need to adopt and adapt. There is a huge demand for hybrid data centers, and how do you manage workloads. Connectivity plays a very critical role. How your data center is connected to the outside world plays an extremely critical role. If you look at telecom carriers, one sector of initiative is how to converge the traffic and give it back to customers. It is important where you co-locate your data center with carrier companies. There are data center co-location providers, as well. You have to strategize your plans. Would you bet on carriers or the co-location side?

Next, you also decide about your end points. There are sensors, browsers, cloud services, etc. Another part is security. How is the data center architectured in the future does gain lot of importance. We also need to partner with the right people.

Harish HS said we have to concentrate on both the aspects. WFH will continue. We need to concentrate on the connectivity and scaling up the data center infrastructure.

Pure-play provider vs. carrier-based provider, who is relevant? Umesh Pandey replied that in some cases, carrier-backed data center can be a better choice. There will be different kinds of support and bandwidth. Not all data centers will need a carrier-grade data center. Including public and private, there is the need for all kinds of data centers today. This will also include co-location services. We will need quality infrastructure.

Ashok MN added that both parameters are required. Data center as a priority and carrier aspect, both are very important. While designing a data center, we look at three factors. These are availability of power, availability of the carrier network, and availability of people movement. We also prefer a scalable option. We can expand the IT load as we need. Most of the enterprise customers prefer having a carrier-based data center.

Next, there will be an increase in demand for cloud portfolio, and intrinsic demand for the data center. We need to be ready with scalable options for each and every data center. We need to be ready with power. We have been ready with all this from the pre-covid-19 and post-covid-19 days.

Regarding power consumption for data centers, Umesh Pandey said we are looking at running them at room temperature. There should be 20-27degrees C. Managing the cooling is a key aspect of the data center. We are looking at managing air flow. We are also looking at low-power requirements for the equipment. We are looking at how we don’t spend too much money on power.

Kanungo said that data center power and cooling are sensitive subjects. The power consumption per rack was 4kVA, and has gone up to 32kVA. Companies design their racks from 12-16kVA. Large companies, such as Intel, may go up to 32kVA. The moment you go for 12kVA and above, there is a need for hybrid cooling. So, hybrid cooling for 12kVA and above, followed by precision cooling. We use hybrid cooling, keeping in mind the HPC nature. It is important that you don’t run out of cooling when you are doing HPC. These cooling systems are adaptive in nature. It is important that you design this with the right kind of architect. Schneider is very good, for example. We use hybrid cooling.

Harish HS added most clients belong to the SME segment. We had lot of challenges regarding skillsets. We are slowly moving to the hosted data centers. Either we move the servers to the hosted data centers, or we move the work floor to the shared data center. Our challenge right now is to upskill the engineers. Most of our clients have also moved to the public cloud.

How is STT GDC dealing with helping the data center challenges? Ashok MN said that one challenge is power. We are getting highly renewable energy in place. It is also green. Next, there is redundancy in each aspect — power, carrier network, etc. Getting redundant power to the data center is very important. We ensure there is no single point of failure present. There is a highly redundant architecture built across. Another is the cooling aspect. We can cater to higher requirements. Earlier, hosting 5-6kVA in a data center was a challenge. Since the last 3-4 years, we started building high-density data centers across the country. Our data centers are capable of running loads from 3kVA to 18kVA. You can mount equipment in 30-35kVA. The public data center is as good as a plug-and-play model. There may be slight customization required.

Third, the data center provides SLA on power and cooling, and other parameters. We try to cover as many temperatures as possible. We also adopt cold air containment. Power and cold air containment allows us to maintain high PUE. Some data centers are built around 1.5 PUE and they can go up to 1.65 PUE. We have power and renewable power availability, and provide the best cooling. This means we are able to provide the best PUE possible in the Indian environment condition.

Data center of future
Ashok MN, STT GDC presented on the data centers. ST Telemedia is headquartered in Singapore. Since establishment in 2014, STT GDC has expanded its portfolio significantly. The global platform spans five geographies comprising over 110 data centers and 1.2GW of IT load. We are having 10 data centers in the UK, 16 in India, 78 in China, 7 in Singapore, and 1 in Thailand. We are also looking to expand in the USA.

India’s share is at ~2 percent of the workd, and is projected to double in 18 months. Indian DC market size is expected to be worth $4.5 billion from 2020-2025. India is at ~250MW designed capacity today, which will double in 18 months and reach 1000MW in four years. USA added ~500MW last year. China is growing at least 4x-5x times vs. India. India is the second largest DC market in Apac. The world co-location market is growing at ~12% CAGR, while India is at 23% CAGR.

Regarding growth drivers in India, there is growth in e-commerce with 220 million online shoppers in India. There is greater preference for OTT platforms. 50% traffic (video and e-commerce) are from tier 2 and 3 cities. There will be 31.3% rise in the demand for cobots in future. There is an increase in social media users, with 400 million users. There is rapid digitization of services across industries, with 64% organizations in India now needing cloud computing.

New opportunities in the Indian market are that 92% of companies are seeking to change their business models. There is 33%+ CAGT cloud growth. $5 billion has been forecast in the indian cloud market. 73% of outsourcing will be on the cloud. There will be 20% growth in co-location services in next five years at 23% CAGR. The market size has been corrected from Rs. 3500 crore to Rs. 10600 crore from FY20 to FY26.

The public cloud market wil grow 19% in 2020. There will be 8.9% growth in cloud-based telephony and messaging growth. Post pandemic, there will be 8-19 first timers doing video calls, 13X jump in video calling and conference apps downloads, 60% consumers will opt for paid platforms than the free streaming or DTH/cable TV. Also, 1/3rd of India’s population will be active social media users.

Several shifts are set to define the future of data centers. There is demand to move from captive to co-location and IaaS-based offerings. There will be 22% CAGR growth for expected co-location revenues over FY19-26. There will be 490MW projection of operational capacity to be added over the next 3-4 years.

Players are also moving to lower-rung cities owing to space constraints, high rentals in top four cities, and large international players acquiring local players to foray into India. ICT companies are the major investors in renewable energy. There is a shift to newer, more efficient technologies. 20% DC hardware switches will be procured via as-a-service model by 2025. Automation in DCs have increased with cloud, AI and VR. DC owners are increasingly using micro data centers in their infrastructure. Environment-friendly technologies have also gained momentum. Co-location benefits include flexibility and scalability, lower opex and capex, better DR capabilities, lower cooling and power costs, etc.

STT GDC started in India in 2005. TCDC rebranded as STT GDC India in 2016 and became a provider to hyper-scalers. It transitioned from TCL shared services. A self-sufficient STT GDC India has set sail with a new vision. Besides opening India’s largest data centers, it is also recognized as India’s best DC operator. STT GDC covers 8 cities, with 16 data centers. Currently we have over 30% green energy and an IT load of 120MW. There are three DCs each in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, 2 each in Chennai and Pune, and 1 each in Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Hyderabad.

The upcoming DCs will have 2x of the current IT load. These are coming up in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad.

We are a credible co-location provider with least risk. We are financially stable, have no tenancy risk, proven delivery track record, network rich and carrier neutral, design and operations excellence, and are closest to the customers. We have consistent quality across the global portfolio. We have state-of-the-art DCs, range of connectivity options and security. We provide 24×7 security monitoring.

A future DC is coming up in Bengaluru, the DC 3. It is rated 3, purpose built DC. Dedicated 66KV GIS substation tapping 220KV substation. We have carrier neutral MMRs and 3 diverse fiber entry paths, making it network dense. We have 3.5L sq. ft., with 18MW IT load, 15KW/58U racks, column-less halls, making it hyper scale. We have the IGBC green building — gold, upto 50% green power, making it a sustainable DC. We have the highest uptime, with redundant chillers, generators, UPSs. There is rampless design, 3 ton elevators, making preloaded racks.

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