Today, data centres are regarded as the “factories of tomorrow”. In terms of valuation, the market is expected to double in size between 2021 and 2028.

Some of the major factors driving the increase in data centre adoption are deeper internet penetration, increased digital data traffic, greater use of public cloud services and the growth of internet of things (IoT) technologies. Further, with increasing investments in artificial intelligence (AI), it has become essential to upgrade the existing data centre infrastructure. The increa­sing investments in brownfield development and modular facilities also serves as a key growth driver.

Data centre landscape in India

The Indian data centre market is attracting significant investment from co-location service providers, driven by high demand from the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), logistics, transportation, e-commerce, and government sectors. This growth has been further accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Strong domestic demand is a key gro-wth driver for the Indian data centre market. As businesses rapidly digitalise, they are seeking to scale up their IT infrastructure. This has led to a surge in demand for colocation/cloud facilities, which offer scalability, security and connectivity at lower costs. In addition, data centre operators are acquiring large tracts of land to meet their long-term needs. The industry is also gearing up for the roll-out of AI services, which will have a significant impact on the country’s data centre footprint. Investors and global data centre players have also shown a keen interest, as seen in the increasing number of joint ventures formed for the establishment of new data centres.

Design approach

Topography plays a key role in determining the building form while designing data centres, as each data centre site is unique.  Each data centre is designed with the aim of maximising flexibility for the end user and expansion of the data hall space while ensuring compliance with codes. Some of the key factors that influence design are:

  • Acoustics: Plant to boundary/set back/ building zone.
  • Accommodation of major plants with a focus on facility management and repla­cement strategies.
  • Commissioning and handover strategies as well as procurement strategies.
  • Parking requirements, fire tender path fuel refilling zone as by-laws and chief fire office requirements.
  • Adherence to local council requirements.
  • Zone segregations as per the client’s op­erational requirements.
  • Availability of equipment, standby provisions and diverse routing.
  • Boundary wall provision, security and threat vulnerability risk assessment.

While designing a data centre, it is es­sential to strike a balance between capital expenditure and operating expenditure. Further, procurement and frequency mo­dulation efficiencies should be maximised through innovative design. The efficient, re­liable and cost-effective operation of da­ta centres also depends on effective power management. Reducing construction time and achieving higher levels of power usage effectiveness are other im­portant considerations.

Design challenges

The goal of designing a data centre is to maximise flexibility and expansion for the end user. To achieve this goal, various ch­al­lenges must be addressed. A key challe­nge pertains to land use. Designers must un­dertake a complete environmental im­pa­ct assessment by engaging with the relevant authorities having jurisdiction. Me­anwhile, power supply is a major challenge as data centres need to be easily accessible and well connected. Another challenge is ensuring data centre connectivity via optical fibre cables.

One of the biggest challenges in the design process is ensuring minimal soil and groundwater contamination. Violati­on of these terms can lead to the termina­ti­on of the project.

Sustainability goals

The design of a data centre should prioritise energy efficiency and sustainability. The primary sustainability goal when constructing a data centre is to achieve net-ze­ro targets. Some other environmentally friendly practices to ensure sustainable de­velopment of data centres are:

  • Increasing the data hall space and chilled water temperatures.
  • On-site water and waste management for reduced water use.
  • Indoor air quality enhancement.
  • Commissioning of buildings.
  • Outdoor thermal comfort analysis.
  • Running simulations to enhance energy efficiency.
  • Use of renewable and on-site energy generation to reduce carbon emissions.

Based on a presentation by Manish Shangari, Vice-President, and Dr Sanjay Gambhir, Regional Director, AECOM