As the global output of data is growing exponentially, so are data centres, which need to keep pace with the demand for processing, storing and delivering huge quantities of data through a vast global network of several billion devices. Consequently, the number of server units has been growing annually. According to Pike Research, a business intelligence and research firm, global revenue of data centre infrastructures is expected to jump from $7.5 billion to $41.4 billion in 2015. The increased density of servers brings with it challenges in terms of accumulated heat load ‘hotspots’. Sophisticated IT technology is needed for uninterrupted business continuity. Data centres, therefore, need to factor in energy costs. Thus, metering, monitoring and controlling energy use has gained importance.
It is imperative that data centres need to be kept cool – maintained at a well-regulated temperature deploying high quality and reliable cooling systems – given the sensitive work handled by them. The HVAC industry, therefore, plays a pivotal role in ensuring that data centres function smoothly, with the cooling equipment performing efficiently.
In addition to cooling, data centres require state-of-the-art air filtration equipment to ensure a dust-free environment. This is a critical need, given the valuable data stored and transferred by data centres. Energy benchmarking is key to improving energy performance, providing a top-level indicator of potential savings.
With rapid all-round growth of Saudi Arabia, the country’s data centres play a crucial role in the seamless functioning of governmental and non-governmental sectors. In this regard, the country’s HVAC equipment and services have an onerous task of creating a clean environment at the required temperature for the country’s data centres in a cost-effective manner. It is, indeed, a challenge, given the levels of heat and dust in the region.
With the Kingdom facing an impending energy shortage, data centres are investing in new technologies. In this regard, “green” data centre infrastructure investments are expected to grow rapidly, which help cut energy costs, but still provide superior protection for highly sensitive equipment. This presents both an opportunity and challenge to the HVAC market in the Kingdom. Data centre energy efficiency retrofits is also another niche market the sector can explore.
Active energy management is an important aspect which is gaining ground. In this regard, integrated systems not only monitor cooling efficiency, but also many other features, which can have an impact on the overall energy usage. Current consumption and power flows need to be analysed through power-monitoring devices, E-counters and communication-capable circuit breakers, to achieve energy efficiency. In fact, many data centers, including one in Riyadh, reportedly use free cooling at certain times of the year, as a cost-reduction and sustainable strategy.
However, a holistic approach is needed for better energy use. This can be achieved via communication interfaces, through which, devices can be integrated into high-level building automation and energy management systems to get the total picture.