What’s Next for Hyperscale Data Centres?
What’s Next for Hyperscale Data Centres?
Hyperscale data centres are the backbone of our interconnected world, and as we take the next leap into the future, sustainability emerges as their paramount concern. In this blog, we explore the next frontier for hyperscale data centres, highlighting the imperative shift towards sustainable practices.
The Rise of Hyperscale Data Centres
The importance of Hyperscale Data Centres has grown in tandem with the explosive growth of digital applications, including cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and big data analytics. There are currently 900 hyperscale data centres worldwide, and according to Synergy Research Group that number is split pretty much evenly between those facilities that are owned by the cloud providers and those that are leased. They are also predicting that hyperscale data centers operated by the largest cloud companies will continue to grow at a hefty rate.
The Challenge of Energy Consumption
The success and effectiveness of hyperscale data centres can however come at a cost – their massive energy consumption. Traditional data centres already consume significant electricity, but hyperscale centres amplify that demand manifold. As the world’s digital infrastructure expands, addressing the ecological impact of these data centres becomes increasingly urgent.
At a recent FGS event in Malta, James Hall, CTO of Global Storage at Hewlett Packard Enterprise discussed with FGS CEO Peter Stroud his thoughts on the sustainability issues facing Hyperscale Data Centres:
“The challenge that the hyper-scalers are facing is that local governments need to build new houses, and this is politically preferable to building new data centres. We’re at this tipping point and I don’t know where it’s going to go.
Another big issue is sustainability. There’s regulatory pressure on the public Cloud companies to declare what their scope 3 is. They have to tell you how much power you are drawing inside their massive shared data centre. And they can’t do it, because the whole idea of the public Cloud is it’s a shared resource.
Google can’t tell the big banks how much power draw they’re using for their applications because their applications sit with everyone else’s. The regulators are saying: ‘We need to know this and you can’t do it.’
Today the conversations are all about: “What regulatory requirements do you have? Sustainability? Can you actually build something and put it somewhere? Do you have any power to actually run it if you put it somewhere?” It’s a massive mind shift, because now it’s about power draw and sustainability.”
Currently nearly half of the world’s hyperscale data centres are in the US, followed by China. The UK needs to catch up to address the requirements of the rise of AI. As reported last month, a new hyperscale data centre has been proposed for the UK that would cover the same area as 12 football pitches. The planning statement, submitted on behalf of Greystoke Land LTD, says: “The evidence shows rapid growth in the amount of data that is being generated. That data needs to be stored and processed. The amount of data being generated is growing exponentially. It is driven by the radical transformation in the way people interact and how technology is used for personal, administrative, governmental, and business activities.”
These massive facilities are necessary for the UK to address the requirements of the rise of AI and machine learning and need to be within a certain area of each other as different sites have “parent-child” relationships in terms of how they interact, meaning the possible locations are very restricted. The plan also claims that the social and economic benefits of the plan will be “considerable” and “far from the ordinary” with direct inward investment of more than £1bn.
Embracing Renewable Energy
To achieve sustainability, the next frontier for hyperscale data centres lies in adopting renewable energy sources. Solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal power present viable alternatives to conventional fossil fuel-based electricity. Leading tech giants have already started investing heavily in renewable energy projects to power their data centres, not only to offset their carbon footprints but also to hedge against fluctuating energy prices and ensure long-term operational stability.
Another critical aspect of sustainability is water conservation. Data centres require vast amounts of water for cooling, and in regions facing water scarcity, this can exacerbate environmental concerns. Implementing water-saving technologies and adopting more water-efficient cooling solutions can mitigate this issue and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Recycling and Circular Economy
With the rapid pace of technological advancements, hyperscale data centres frequently upgrade their hardware to keep up with the demand. Embracing the principles of a circular economy, data centres can focus on reusing and recycling components, reducing electronic waste, and extending the lifecycle of equipment. Initiatives such as responsible e-waste disposal and equipment refurbishment can contribute to a more sustainable data centre ecosystem.
Edge Computing and Reduced Latency
Edge computing, a concept that brings processing closer to the source of data, is also gaining momentum as a sustainability driver. By reducing the need to transmit data over long distances, edge computing can lower energy consumption and improve data processing efficiency, ultimately reducing the ecological footprint of data centres.
Sustainability in the data centre industry requires collective action. Collaboration among data centre operators, tech companies, policymakers, and environmental organisations can drive the development of industry-wide standards and best practices for sustainability.
Amazon is the second largest data centre hyperscaler, just behind Google, and has been vocal on its commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and is on a path to power its operations, including AWS data centres, with 100% renewable energy by 2025. They also state that they are “focused on energy efficiency across all aspects of our infrastructure and has committed to return more water to communities than AWS uses in its direct operations by 2030 and reducing waste.” They published their own research found that moving on-premises workloads to AWS can lower the workload carbon footprint by nearly 80% and up to 96% once AWS is powered with 100% renewable energy, a target they state they are on path to meet by 2025.
As hyperscale data centres continue to play a central role in the digital transformation of society, embracing sustainability becomes an indispensable obligation. By investing in renewable energy, optimising energy efficiency, conserving water, and promoting circular practices, data centres can lead the charge towards a greener and more sustainable future. As technology evolves, the industry’s collective commitment to sustainability will be the key to striking a balance between technological advancement and environmental preservation.
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