With growing digitalisation and cloud-connected enterprises, building data centres has become imperative. About half the world’s data will be stored on the cloud by 2025, increasing the need to build more configurable, efficient and sustainable data centres. To this end, tele.net organised a webinar on “Accelerating Next Gen Data Centre Innovation” to discuss the role of innovative digital and technology solutions in effectively managing the planning, construction and operations of data centres. During the webinar, Chandan Gupta, vertical head, data centre services, Web Werks, Iron Mountain India Data Centres; Rohan Sheth, head of colocation and data centre services, Yotta Infrastructure Solutions; Piyush Somani, founder, CMD and CEO, ESDS Software Solution Limited; and Renuka Srinivasan, brand sales director, Dassault Systèmes India, discussed the evolving data centre market and innovative solutions. Edited excerpts…
What are the key challenges being faced in data centre operations, specifically with respect to speed and uptime in the context of exploding data growth and demand, and the pressure to meet the environmental, social and corporate governance criteria?
The data centre industry in India is witnessing a boom. In the next two to three years, the data centre capacity in the country is expected to double. Iron Mountain data centres operate in 20-plus markets worldwide. The company has a layer cut approach towards sustainability. There are lots of green initiatives already taking place. For example, all Iron Mountain data centres outside India are already powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. We are deploying the same method in India now. We had three markets initially – Mumbai, Pune and Noida. We are now expanding to three more markets in India – Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad.
Yotta currently has two operational data centres in India. Our first data centre, Yotta NM1 in Navi Mumbai, is India’s only Tier IV data centre with Uptime Institute’s Gold Tier Certification of Operational Sustainability (TCOS). Whereas Yotta D1, the first data centre at our Greater Noida Campus, went live for customer operations in August 2022. Having already demonstrated our unmatched infrastructure and operational competencies since the launch of Yotta NM1, we are providing North India with its first hyperscale data centre park. But our expansion roadmap goes much beyond that.
We have announced a robust pipeline of hyperscale data centre parks pan-India, tapping regions such as Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai and Gift City, Gandhinagar – combined to add over 1,000 MW to India’s total data centre capacity over the coming years. In addition, we have planned an extensive network of Edge data centres across the country, bringing smaller tier cities to the digital mainstream and bridging the digital divide.
Connectivity, speed, uptime and efficiency are the major factors that define the performance of any data centre. Today’s workloads demand real-time data processing and compute capabilities, so it also becomes paramount for data centres to provide scalable compute, reliable connectivity and maximum speed for seamless performance and outcomes. Our data centres are well connected with the presence of internet exchanges, offer direct multi-cloud connectivity and are carrier neutral with our captive fibre trenches.
Meanwhile, uptime is defined by multiple factors in data centre operations. It essentially depends on the data centre’s ability to remain fault-tolerant under any situation. Power and cooling are two critical areas that determine uptime.
At Yotta, our design philosophy adheres to the highest possible global standards. Our facilities offer unmatched fault tolerance for maximum uptime. Yotta NM1, for instance, being certified by Uptime Institute’s highest certification – Gold TCOS – provides zero downtime assurance to our customers.
With no compromise on performance, all our data centres will incorporate fail-proof design and construction, leading to always-available operations, no matter what. Amidst a range of practices and operational principles, we equip our data centres with ample power backup that can support uninterrupted operations for 48 hours straight, further supported by state-of-the-art equipment, intelligent building monitoring systems, network, connectivity and cooling infrastructure.
Currently, we have four data centres. We mainly work on the retail side and do not focus on hyperscale colocation. We have data centres in Nashik, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Mohali, and soon we will be taking over a data centre in Chennai. Capacity wise, we have 700-800 racks. Over the next four to five years, the total capacity would cross 10 GW. We need innovative designs to address the challenges experienced in terms of speed and uptime. We need advanced technology solutions and solution providers to provide end-to-end solutions. Further, it is my personal aspiration that by the time this capacity crosses 8-10 GW of power, all data centres in India should be pushed to move towards 100 per cent renewable power.
Dassault Systèmes has been working for 40 years in creating customer experiences. Some of the equipment that the data centre industry needs is probably designed using our solutions and technology. If you want to see large improvements, rather than just incremental ones, you have to change the technology you bring in. That is what we are hoping to do.
The other aspect is a model-based approach. By taking this approach, we are able to capture design errors much earlier and this helps in reducing some of the construction rework. We try to look into newer technologies, starting from design to manufacturing. Also, we can help speed up the entire design and construction process.
What are some of the cost-effective, easy-to-use, innovative solutions?
Today’s enterprises need cutting-edge solutions and platforms to make innovations happen, especially when emerging technology use cases are making larger inroads into digital strategies. As an end-to-end digital transformation enabler, Yotta fulfils every need of businesses across industries.
We do this with our ever-expanding portfolio of Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) that features a gamut of solutions such as single-window SAP services, work from anywhere services, high-performance computing as-a-service, bank-in-box and compliance solutions, cloud-hosted performance workstations, endpoint backup and recovery, IT service management, integrated university management system and an extensive cybersecurity solution suite – all of it delivered on a cost-effective OpEx model. Complementing our data centre and cloud services with the above, we serve as a one-stop solution provider to businesses.
What are the solutions and technologies relating to water and energy consumption and reduction of the carbon footprint?
If we talk about energy consumption, things have been changing from the hardware original equipment manufacturer (OEM) side as well. Initially, the temperature recommendations by organisations were very stringent. Now, with technology improving, there is more resilient hardware in place. We have increased the average server hall temperature at our data centres by two degrees. Such a small thing has led to a huge amount of energy conser-vation. All the new hardware that we have is quite resilient to small temperature changes. On the water side, we use air-cooled chillers. They basically help us conserve a large amount of water.
The central government, along with various state governments, is taking commendable and progressive initiatives on this front. Earlier, for procuring green power, data centre operators faced various challenges, including high charges. However, owing to the growth of the data centre industry and a greater emphasis on renewable sources of energy, states are providing significant flexibility as part of their data centre policies.
While the central government provided ‘Infrastructure’ status to data centres, several states have also declared data centres a special industry. Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have already formed dedicated data centre policies, whereas Maharashtra is in the process of framing its own.
Power is the lifeline of data centres, and the ecosystem has seen significant progress on this front. If a data centre operator requires a certain threshold of power before they can set up their own solar power plant, there are numerous options in the market now. As a result, data centre companies are now more inclined toward using green and renewable power sources.
Air cooling systems are definitely more efficient. But you can achieve far more efficiency when you cool your data centre using a large waterbody. According to a new concept, backed by Google and Microsoft, of having submerged data centres, a data centre exchanges its heat with the sea and the sea is so huge that you cannot increase its temperature by even point 0.0001 degree. But, if a large data centre with 1,000 racks is exchanging its heat with a Olympic-size swimming pool, it may not increase its temperature by even 1 degree Celsius throughout the day. The benefit here is that the waterbody is not getting heated and the entire data centre heat is being absorbed. You are going to save 20-30 per cent energy, which is otherwise lost in a data centre through other traditional ways of cooling. Hence, there is an opportunity for innovation.
From our side, we focus quite a bit on sustainability, in multiple ways. At Dassault Systèmes, we are working with people who develop wind turbines, solar panels, etc. Specifically speaking, we could make an impact in assessing new construction materials and construction processes, etc. in the data centre space.
The other aspect we looked at is the life cycle and assessment of the entire impact. Further, especially with virtual twins, we can optimise across multiple systems. A virtual twin helps in predicting future behaviour as well as showcases decision-making for scenarios that might arise in future. In a data centre, there are multiple systems, so we can do a full system-level optimisation, which will allow for some efficiency improvement, whether it is in cooling or other aspects of design.
When you are expanding and technology is changing, what are the supporting infrastructure requirements?
After years, the approach of deploying edge data centres is taking off. We are adapting to it. We have all the primary markets such as Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai covered. Apart from that, secondary markets are getting covered and we have a lot of traction for edge deployments. Now, we need to have more distributed architecture so that we are nearer to the end user. We have already invested in most of our facilities and they are edge ready.
Our core philosophy for expansion is clear. When we plan to expand in a particular location with a minimum of three data centre buildings and an IT load of 70-80 MW, we ensure that we have access to land parcels, enough power infrastructure and redundant fibre capacity. The overall planning is aligned with sustainability and scalability for our customers.
Basically, all the centralised data centres are in Mumbai and the city is getting crowded. So, we should start setting up data centres in other parts of India. This would help the country with future requirements. It is important that we now focus on edge data centre technology and more innovation.
Virtual twin technology can help us discover different possibilities and come up with the best options. And then, we can make a decision as to which one is viable for us and suits our customer.