Telecommunications expert Peter Karaszi discusses in this article, how data boom pressures are forcing operators to seek green solutions when deploying new data centres.
The increasing demand for data by users has created a corresponding demand for new infrastructure, pressuring players in the telecom and communications sector to set up new data centres and deploy them within days.
With speed to operations being the key differentiator, prefabricated and highly energy efficient data centres are being preferred in the industry today.
Global mobile data traffic, driven by smartphones and tablets grew 81 percent in 2013, according to a recent report by Cisco (Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update). This is expected to increase nearly 11-fold between 2013 and 2018, growing at a compounded annual rate of 61 per cent. By 2019, the number of smartphone subscriptions is expected to reach 5.6 billion, according to Ericsson.
Managing this increasing traffic comes down to having efficient and better telecom infrastructure. The data centre is regarded as the most important link in the chain, which means high quality, efficient data centres housing and powering all the equipment needed for transmission of data, are the need of the hour.
While data and switching equipment is relatively easy and quick to order, the data centre building can become a delaying factor, especially in many markets where it can take over a year to plan, co-ordinate and construct a new data centre facility, not to speak of budget over-runs and structural problems. Buildings for data centres are often not purpose built to be used as technical facilities and often have water leaks and other problems.
Mobile operators, hosted data providers, internet service providers and others are increasingly choosing turnkey prefabricated data centres instead of conventional brick and mortar solutions, as they are much quicker to deploy, saving time and money, and will always be the ‘right’ size thanks to their modular structure, which allows quick expansion to suit changing needs.
Vodacom Mozambique’s deployment of a prefabricated data centre (Flexenclosure’s eCentre) on top of a six-storey building in central Maputo is one excellent example of the need for speed when installing a new data centre. The 126 square metre data centre building was manufactured in Sweden, shipped to Maputo and installed with a total turnaround period of just eight days. The client gained from a guaranteed product, a guaranteed budget, and guaranteed delivery on time.
Even existing data centres facing an impact in operations due to an incident of any kind, can benefit from the prefabricated solution. For instance, a battery-related fire damaged Vodacom Tanzania’s energy centre in Dar es Salaam in August 2013, resulting in a serious disruption to its network services.
The solution involved replacing the old energy centre with the new eCentre, which also included separated A and B sides and separated batteries, increasing redundancy and security, and minimising the risk of any impact on business continuity in the event of another accident.
Another advantage of prefabricated data centres is that they are constructed in a clean environment far away from the deployment location with systems thoroughly tested before shipment.
Energy efficiency is a major impacting factor, especially in emerging markets where energy supplies are generally unreliable and come at a heavy cost. A modern prefabricated modular data centre uses the most appropriate and efficient cooling solutions available such as indirect free air cooling systems that can provide up to 70 per cent electricity savings, and a smart infrastructure management system that can monitor energy efficiency remotely and optimise power usage.
In conclusion, experience on the ground has given the industry strong incentives to choose turnkey modular data centres over traditional builds. The very strong trend in favour of custom-designed prefabricated data centres is set to continue in the coming years.
Peter Karaszi is a communications expert in intelligent telecom solutions and based in Cape Town, South Africa.