One Thing the Data Centre of the Future Must Be is Responsible



I was recently asked to speak at Data Centres Europe in Monaco on the subject of the Data Centre of the Future. It’s a fascinating topic, but my first question was how far into the future do you want me to look? With technology rushing ahead and incredible new discoveries being made every day, I could easily put together a science fiction-like scenario and even that might not seem futuristic enough!

As Nelson Mandela said, it always seems impossible until it’s done, but I can imagine life in the not-too-distant future being very different from today. We could be on the verge of changes that could have profound effects on the data centre.  After all, even as recently as the early 90’s we wrote letters and in the best case we might just have got a response in the same week. Today we are answering at least 100 emails a day.

Only two years ago we said hello to the 7 billionth Earthling. Another billion souls will be added to the population in the coming decade. Imagine what will happen when they are all connected, and the impact that will have upon our data centres.

Twenty-five years from now every human could have an integrated bio-chip enabling a whole new world of direct communication with one other, or even online ordering through head-up data displayed directly on the visual cortex! We will communicate in seconds and information will be stored together with our DNA details on a complex circuit generating just 50 Watts of heat and powered as part of our day-to-day diet. Our human capabilities could be far beyond anything we can imagine today. We haven’t even considered the storage capability inherent in the human brain.

But this topic is for later, for now let’s look at something which is of much more imminent concern: The need to change the way we do things, not just to reduce our costs but for the benefit of the planet as a whole.

This year, 451 Research announced a global survey that found the average legacy data centre PUE was around 1.7 – Uptime found a similar number amongst those owners and operator’s at this years’ Symposium.

However, if we move away from using legacy data centres and start to develop and utilise large scale (up to 15 MW) and hyper data centres (70 MW in Europe) the savings could be huge - in an industry, which Jonathan Koomey research in 2005 showed accounted for about 1% of total world electricity consumption.

No-one disputes that large data centres can easily run at 1.2 PUE, while hyper data centres can operate near parity at 1.09 PUE.

By the way, in the USA a hyper-scale data centre could easily top 150 MW but 70 MW is probably a more realistic figure for Europe. And I haven’t just plucked the 15MW figure from the air; we’ve already moved from a sweet spot of 2 MW to 5MW, and are currently close to 10 MW. So 15 MW in the next 5 - 8 years is a very real possibility.

Such a revitalised data centre landscape comprised of large facilities (accounting for 45 MW) and hyper scale data centres (making up the balance, or 55 MW), the savings would be; 52,600,000 MWh or 36,270,382,600 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Whatever your view is of the future, surely we have a responsibility not to just cut costs for the sake of our shareholders, but to reduce our carbon footprint for welfare of 7, soon to be 8, billion human beings.

Where do you stand?