Despite the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, the data centre market has remained buoyant. In the Middle East, it is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of over 10 per cent during 2020−2026.
Cloud service providers are also expanding their presence worldwide.
Microsoft and its partners are expected to spend over $2 billion in data centre services in the UAE to grow their local business in the ME region.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) will be opening an infrastructure region in the UAE in the first half of 2022 that will consist of three availability zones. It will be AWS’s second region in the Middle East with an existing AWS Region in Bahrain.
Last year, Google announced that Google Cloud would deploy and operate a cloud region in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In addition, in February, Oracle opened an underground cloud region in Jerusalem, Israel. The MEA data centre investment is expected to reach $9.12 billion by 2026.
Businesses worldwide and across the Middle East region are rapidly adopting new technologies, such as 5G, artificial intelligence, as part of their digital transformation strategy. The adoption of these technologies is driving an increase in data volume and network bandwidth requirements.
The growing adoption of cloud, IoT, big data increased colocation investments. Cloud, social media and video conferencing service providers have contributed majorly to data generation. Many enterprises operating in the cloud are migrating to colocation data centres to operate hybrid infrastructure services.
Increasing operational business requirements are prompting enterprises to migrate from on-premises, server room operations to data centre services, including managed, colocation, and hybrid facilities.
It is estimated that more than 70 per cent of Middle East companies will have multi-cloud environments in place in the next two years, and there is a prediction of a significant increase in investment by public cloud service providers.
Recently, Etisalat Group and G42 agreed to merge their data centre offering in the UAE. A total of 12 data centres will be combined in a new joint venture business operating under Khazna Data Centres, creating the UAE’s largest data centre provider.
Earlier, Khazna has implemented modular data centres in its UAE facilities. Also, Zain invested in a prefabricated data centre with a power capacity of around 5 MW in 2020, built by Huawei Technologies.
With no decrease in demand for data and increasing demand for colocation opportunities as SMEs embrace digital models and large businesses continue to think about scale – and demand hyperscale data centres, we look at three data centre trends poised for remarkable growth.
Sustainability taking the centre stage
Sustainability is becoming a priority in data centre construction and management. Workloads are growing more every day. A profusion of GPUs and CPUs are being deployed to support the rising number of AI applications. Smart devices equipped with 5G wireless networks will give rise to smaller but numerous edge data centres.
The growth of connected devices is driving not only demand for power to operate them but also data centres that connect to them. Vertiv estimates that the move to 5G is likely to increase total network energy consumption by between 150 per cent and 170 per cent by 2026, with the largest increases coming in macro, node and network data centre areas.
Innovation in energy efficiency and renewable adoption has been driven by the industry’s largest customers – Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon Web Services.
Now, sustainability is a priority for all. Hyperscale data centre operators have broadly embraced the goal of sustainable operations and have contributed innovations while significantly reducing their own power use. For example, Google’s data centres today support an average of seven times more computing power than they did five years ago but it is carbon neutral today. It’s goal is to run on carbon-free energy, 24/7, at all of its data centres by 2030.
The use of server virtualisation can reduce the number of servers needed in data centres while driving up utilisation rates, and thereby energy use will increase at a slower rate in the future.
Hyperscalers have also been leaders in the use of power purchase agreements with renewable energy providers to create a cost-effective alternative to building out their renewable infrastructure while funding investments in sustainable sources. Innovations like Google’s “carbon-intelligent” data centre design shifts workloads automatically to maximise the use of carbon-neutral power sources.
Data centres also use massive amounts of water — a 15-megawatt data centre can use up to 360,000 gallons of water a day. Air cooling can increase overall water consumption. Air conditioning is an enormous consumer of power. A typical data centre uses 35 per cent of its power for HVAC, according to The Engineering Mindset
Balancing power efficiency and water usage is a process that is unique to each data centre and is affected by continual technology change. Operators should look for solutions that provide sustainability objectives, regulations and community considerations.
All Eyes On The Edge
Edge computing is everyone’s must-do list, as it brings greater speed, privacy, and more security. As more people adopt smart technologies in their businesses, the demand for edge computing will grow, and so will edge data centres. That means building an edge data centre is becoming a priority. The IoT market is expected to grow by over $50 billion by 2022. With that kind of growth, and demand for speed and connectivity, the edge data centre market is bound to grow exponentially.
Many new technologies will utilise and benefit from edge data centres, including 5G networks, Internet of things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) devices, autonomous vehicles, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning, data analytics, and video streaming and surveillance.
For edge computing to work, an edge data centre needs to be placed at an internet exchange point, where multiple network carriers all connect. Providers who invest in the deployment of edge data centres will achieve a competitive edge and will be able to offer faster, more reliable delivery of their services and applications.
Market leading infrastructure and power vendors are creating edge-specific products at a rapid pace and scale. Companies from Dell, HPE and Vertiv to AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure are investing in new edge capabilities, services and vertical-specific edge reference architectures. Investment from some of the bigger players in the market suggests there’s a lot of expansion coming in this data centre sector.
Automation and robotics
Facebook has built a fleet of robots to patrol its data centres. It also created a Site Engineering Robotics team to “design and develop robotics solutions to automate and scale Facebook’s data centre infrastructure operations.” Earlier, Google used robots to destroy old hard drives in its facilities, and IBM used modified roomba bots to monitor temperature.
Companies worldwide are also exploring data centre robotics, as it can play a larger role in data centre facility management, including the use of robots to install servers in racks, swap out failed servers, manage disk storage and interconnection, and site security.
According to a recent study, more than 40 per cent of respondents said they’d be deploying robotics and automation for data centre monitoring and maintenance over the next three years. Data centre automation enables the routine workflows and processes of a data centre — such as scheduling, monitoring, maintenance and application delivery — to be managed and executed without humans.
Staffing is still a concern and is, likely, a driver of automation as well. Hiring challenges will translate into smaller operations teams, even as the volume of servers continues to climb.
Shift to remote capabilities for monitoring and routine services like updating and patching will continue to grow as hyperscale and edge data centres expand. And soon, robotics which will begin to handle everything from rack rollouts to site monitoring.
Data centres are becoming the hub and powerhouses of digital ecosystems, enabling innovative services and applications. That calls for massive processing power, automation, and intelligence and sustainability in the data centre. The core differentiators for data centres will be scale and efficiencies that drive cost and power savings.
If you liked reading this, you might like our other stories