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Majority of data centre operators face power demand challenges in 2021 and beyond

Written by Fri 14 May 2021

A report from ABB Power Conversion noted that demand for data centre power increased over the past year, and is expected to continue rising

ABB Power Conversion has released a report called “Data Overload: Powering Data Centers in the New Normal,” focused on data centre power and operations, with some interesting insights.

First, the report reinforces findings about the past year: including the fact that 96% of the U.S. data centre professionals surveyed experienced increased demand for data centre services in 2020. The report also delves into what data centres have done so far to cope, and what future priorities and strategies might look like.

The increase in demand was largely due to changes in a few areas. Higher use of cloud-based banking and financial applications affected the data centres where applications and data are hosted. Telecom connectivity was another major driver, along IoT data and applications.

The findings are not strictly business-related, either. People increased their use of social networking platforms by 51%, possibly to deal with restrictions on face-to-face interactions. And online gaming got a huge boost as well, with gaming on Verizon’s network alone increasing 257% by mid-June.

Managing higher demand in 2020 was tricky, as many companies were cutting back on investments and expenditures to cope with economic uncertainty. One-third of data centre providers focused on leveraging stranded white space, upgrading their power systems to increase capacity. One-quarter instead increased the floor space or rack space, adding more hardware to existing layouts.

While these adjustments helped data centres navigate the immediate need, strategic planning is important to find a long-term solution to managing increased demand. (More than one response to this question was allowed, as a single provider may use a variety of strategies in future planning.)

Top concerns

Top concerns for data centre operators include service / maintenance (34%), followed closely by power utilization (32%) and scalability (30%).

Additional areas of concern include equipment upgrades, energy efficiency, reliability and redundancy, costs, and cooling.

“Data centers are increasingly reliant on on-site backup power systems to help ensure reliable, consistent power, 24/7, as even a millisecond of downtime can be detrimental to their and their customers’ operations,“ noted Jeff Schnitzer, President of ABB Power conversion.

Power system upgrades touch on three key areas of concern for the data centre: ensuring that they are reliable enough to meet current needs, redundant to overcome future disruption, and have the capacity to meet increasing demand.

Future strategies

49% of data center operators plan to use existing space more effectively, looking for creative solutions to maximize power without expanding floor space. Another 49% are considering building new data centres or expanding existing space, particularly in the Northern Viriginia area.

Data centers are increasingly reliant on on-site backup power systems to help ensure reliable, consistent power, 24/7, as even a millisecond of downtime can be detrimental to their and their customers’ operations.

Finally, more than half of the respondents are looking to power system upgrades to help manage increased demand for data centre services in 2021 and beyond. These upgrades may include updating electrical distribution equipment, modernizing power distribution units, and installing automatic transfer switches.

Written by Fri 14 May 2021

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