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Asia’s Opportunity to Power Data Centre Innovation

Tony Gaunt •

While the US – and particularly Silicon Valley – has long led the charge on digital innovation, increasingly, we’re seeing a parallel ecosystem being driven from Asia.

And where better? The need for technology to solve real-world problems has been far more pronounced in this region. From extreme weather, including bushfires and floods to health emergencies, the region has had its share of troubles in recent months.

While challenging and often tragic, these events have a tendency to spark innovation and great minds collaborating to solve these issues through technology, and we’re starting to see signs of this in the data centre industry.

A steady industry

Many people don’t think of the humble server room or the colocation data centre in a business park down the road when it comes to innovation. The interest levels rise much higher when we talk about things like AI, IoT and smart cities.

But failing to recognise the role of data centres in bringing those innovations to life is failure to realise them at all. The data centre powers everything, from an email to an AI-driven chatbot and Asia’s digital future depends on them.

Traditionally, data centre innovation has been slow and steady. Each new generation of builds tends to incorporate the latest technology to improve cost and efficiency, but in terms of mass innovation or disruption, it’s pretty minimal.

When businesses are looking to build a new data centre – whether it be an on-premises facility or a mass colocation building – the priorities tend to focus on three areas:

  1. As much capacity as needed…
  2.  …for as low a cost…
  3.  …with the most resilience built in.

That doesn’t leave much wiggle room for innovation, particularly as time and speed are also factored into the equation, and unsurprisingly data centre design is a reliable, well-practiced and largely similar trade all around the world. Some want to innovate, but aren’t able or prepared to take the business risks to get there.

Taking the leap

But if we pay close attention, we can see the combination of global trends – which are having a strong impact on Asia – and the availability of new technology presents new opportunities for data centre builders and operators.

In Asia, we already see successful experimentation with electrical current usage and building normalisation into data centres – a particularly important feat to get developing countries on the data centre map and to ensure businesses can stay online and operational.

And there are deeper opportunities beyond this. The varying extreme weather events we’ve seen in countries such as India and Australia have sparked life into the climate change and renewable energy debate. Given data centres account for around five percent of energy spend, with that number only set to rise, this is a great area to maximise efficiency.

One approach could be to make the edge energy efficient. Recent research indicates the edge computing market will reach more than US$28 billion by 2027, with significant opportunities in South East Asia and Asia Pacific among the strongest markets for the technology.

The idea of edge is to place compute and data closer to where it’s being created, demanded and used. That has seen the deployment of edge data centres to areas like mining sites and remote branch offices – but what if we took these micro data centres a step further and made them environmentally efficient through a mixture of solar panels and batteries?

These environmentally-friendly upgrades would have a range of benefits – from reducing costs to helping organisations lower their carbon footprint and even taking pressure off the grid, an issue in many countries across Asia Pacific. Being off the grid could see remote sites stay active without the need for backup generators even when the power goes out.

Maybe one day when we talk about energy efficiency, we will finally look at the efficiency of the compute within the rack, not just the critical infrastructure supporting it.

This innovative thinking is just one of the many ideas that are being proposed in the thriving Asian data centre community. It is this energy, dynamism and willingness to innovate for the better that will help Asia drive our data centre and digital futures forward.

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