Dinesh Dhut, Senior Director, DC Power/OSP (SEA and India) and Product Development/Engineering, Vertiv

The Indian data centre market has been growing rapidly. This rapid growth has been fuelled by the adoption of cutt­ing-edge technologies such as artificial in­te­lligence (AI), in­ternet of things (IoT), cloud computing and big data analytics, coupled with various central and state government initiatives. Given the plethora of opportunities in the data centre space, operators and in­fra­structure investors are increasingly pursuing expansion plans in India. That said, there is also a constant concern for stakeholders to reduce the energy footprints and ensure sustainability in the data centre industry. In an interview with tele.net, Dinesh Dhut, senior director, DC Power/OSP (SEA and India) and Product Development/Engineering, Vertiv, shares his views on the evolution of data centre industry post the Covid-19 pandemic, key factors driving the growth of edge data centres, potential impact of 5G and strategies to ensure sustainability in the data centre industry…

How has the Indian data centre space evolved post the Covid-19 pandemic?

Quite clearly, data centres and their ability to enable remote work, schooling, healthcare, banking and other critical daily activities were a major focus during Covid-19, and they are continuing to be the backbone of most businesses. A global study projects that the industry will reach nearly $948 billion in 2030. With the increase in cloud adoption across organisations, increase in the internet adoption, data creation and consumption, and the growing adoption of emerging technologies such as 5G, AI, machine learning (ML), IoT and automation, the Indian data centre industry is at a watershed moment. Several state governments are planning on or are currently investing in creating more data centre cites. Some of the states in India provide land and electricity incentives and special clearances for setting up data centres. As hybrid work continues for several organisations across the country, the demand for data centres will continue to rise.

Organisations in India and globally have also started reinventing themselves to grow and become more sustainable. Businesses across the board had to change the way they planned and strategised, the way they conducted operations, and how they managed their employees, and the data centre space is no exception. In the 2022 budget, the finance minister accorded infrastructure status to the data centre industry which will help data centre companies avail credit more easily and manage their resources better. The expected investments to pour into the data centres market over the next 5-10 years is between Rs 700-720 billion.

How has the onset of hybrid work models impacted the data centre industry? How have data centre solution providers expanded their offerings to cater to the evolving business landscape?

Hybrid work has been creating some waves in the corporate world and data centres are at the heart of businesses making this transformation. While on-premise data centres were often the go-to model in the past, the new IT landscape demands new types of data centres. Be it edge data centres, colocation data centres or decentralisation of the data centre, organisations need a mix of architecture to support remote and office operations.

To suit the new work environments, data centre providers have expanded their offerings. For starters, data centre providers have been trying to customise their products to each business requirement, thereby enabling their new offerings to hyperscale and handle massive capacities. With the data explosion, it is imperative that data centres have ramped up capacity to support the increased cloud services and edge networks.

What are Vertiv’s key offerings in the data centre space? What new solutions are you planning to launch?

Vertiv has always focused on evolving our solutions to meet the business landscape and our customers’ requirements. Some of our offerings in the data centre space include-

  • Micro and edge data centres: Vertiv micro data centres align power, cooling, monitoring, and racks with business needs and constraints. Our solutions team works with customers, from developing the initial requirements through project execution, allowing them to focus on their core business. Our micro and edge data centre solutions give them a new way to deploy data centre capacity in any space or place. Some of our products include- Liebert 1P uninterruptible power supply systems (UPS), Liebert row-based cooling, Liebert rack cooling, and Geist rack power distribution units (rPDUs) among others.
  • Core and prefabricated data centres: Vertiv’s solutions simplify the process of expanding core and prefabricated data centres and critical facility capacities. Vertiv uses modular integration techniques to help our customers, contractors, and consulting partners more effectively design and build data centres. We offer flexible, scalable, and efficient solutions that are pre-engineered, prefabricated, and pre-tested, before being rapidly deployed and assembled on-site. Some of our solutions include- Vertiv SmartMod and Vertiv prefabricated modular solutions, among others.
  • DC power and thermal solutions: Vertiv’s Netsure 400V DC power technology combines the proven benefits of 48V DC power – modularity, scalability, ease of integration – with the cable and installation savings benefit of higher voltage distribution. This technology can help meet site goals by containing expanding costs, increasing energy efficiency, streamlining power distribution, or managing an increasing mix of telecom and IT equipment. 400V DC can be the backbone infrastructure of a cost effective and efficient site design. Thermal solutions include Liebert heat rejection, Liebert high density solutions, and Liebert evaporative free cooling, among others.

What are your views on the growing demand for edge data centres? What are the key factors driving their uptake in the market?

With the world moving to a digital ecosystem, there’s an increase in the criticality of data centres and our reliance on them. A study by Vertiv about data centres being given utility-like status talks about two things – firstly network availability extending to rural and remote areas. This will increase pressure on data centres to maintain connectivity even at the outer edges of their networks. Secondly, distinction between availability and connectivity will get erased as the ability to ensure and protect connections across increasingly distributed hybrid networks becomes as much of a requirement as any traditional measure of data centre uptime. With networks, data and cloud all moving to the edge, it is but natural for data centres to move along with these critical applications.

To reduce latency, network costs, and bandwidth constraints in transporting of data across far distances, data centres are being driven to the network edge. Additionally, edge data centres are required for telecom networks, emerging technologies, cloud storage and gaming. With these industries currently burgeoning, the data centre space is also gaining more importance.

What role do AI/ML play in the data centre domain? How are data centre providers adopting automation to ease workability?

With organisations operating on a hybrid model, there’s an increase in data creation and consumption. As a result, their dependence on data centres has become more critical, and there’s no scope for any downtime. Vertiv has intelligent systems that employ an algorithm that distributes workloads, etc. The data centre of the future may be able to leverage AI. IT automation, can help provide necessary data centres with additional cooling capacity when required, reducing the instances of an outage. By incorporating ML in data centres, workloads can be evenly distributed in order to manage servers more efficiently. In cases where organisations manage large data centres, ML and other advanced technologies can help detect the exact location of an IT issue or incident and can be rectified sooner. The technology will also allow data centre providers to keep track of any real-time changes in the environment like weather or temperature within the facility.

According to a recent AFCOM poll, 40 per cent of data centre providers said they planned to deploy robots or automation software in their facilities over the next 3 years. As a result of the nationwide lockdowns, data centres were constantly short-staffed when it came to on-site technicians and engineers to trouble shoot and handle any unexpected issues. While AI helped manage data centres remotely, automation, combined with ML and analytics, will enable data centre managers to detect any irregularities and inefficiencies in real-time and allow for more efficient operations.

How will the advent of 5G in India impact the data centre space?

The upcoming 5G rollout in India will have a positive impact on the data centre market and will in turn play an integral part in boosting investments in the sector. With the increased adoption of emerging technologies, the data being created and analysed has already increased manifold. Data centres, therefore, play a crucial role in handling these increased loads to reduce the risk of any downtime.

The advent of 5G only implies that data centres will need to adapt their existing infrastructure or create new data centre spaces to support the new loads and reduce latency. The new loads could be storage of this data, ensuring connectivity or providing edge computing support. An upgrade could be required both in terms of hardware and software for more efficiency and seamless movement of this data.

How can data centres be made more sustainable? What are the key market trends in this regard?

Vertiv, in its annual list of the key data centre trends to watch in 2022, highlighted the anticipated dramatic acceleration in actions to address sustainability and navigate the climate crisis, especially in the data centre market.

The decisions made by data centre executives on these fronts will have a significant influence on the digital economy in 2022 and beyond. The specialists at Vertiv found 2022 patterns that indicate the gravity of these concerns. These include:

  • Data centres tackle sustainability and the climate crisis: In recent years, the data centre sector has taken efforts toward more environmentally friendly operations, but operators will join the climate fight more consciously this year. On the operational front, Vertiv experts expect that certain firms will embrace sustainable energy strategies that employ a digital solution that matches energy usage with 100 per cent renewable energy and eventually functions on sustainable energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • AI gets real: As today’s networks become more complicated and dispersed, and the metaverse’s augmented and virtual reality needs become more apparent, the requirement for real-time processing and decision-making becomes increasingly crucial. This real-time requirement is vulnerable to latencies, and full-time manual supervision is unfeasible, if not impossible, under the increasingly frequent hybrid paradigm of enterprise, public and private clouds, colocation, and edge. AI and machine learning will be important in optimizing the performance of these networks.

Our focus has always been to help our customers achieve their sustainability goals, by leveraging Vertiv’s energy efficient and water efficient technologies to reduce their carbon footprint. Vertiv management and services offerings can also help data centre spaces to operate more efficiently and effectively.