Emerging data centre hubs for 2021
Investment in data centre construction is at an all-time high with demand for HPC, colocation and storage hubs growing exponentially. A new by the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) found that although data centre growth offered an average 22% return on investments in 2020, down from 44.21% in 2019, the sector is moving from strength to strength.
But as with all real estate investment decisions, location is the key question for 2021 as global market enterprises jostle for new data centre opportunities.
Until now, the data centre activity in Europe has focused on FLAP markets, namely Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, and Paris. However, data centre providers are also starting to look at other secondary markets, including Berlin, Milan, Madrid, and Vienna, with Poland emerging as a promising location.
The European service provider recently announced the launch of its 11th data centre in Warsaw last month, taking Poland’s total number of hubs to 115. Thirty-five are in Warsaw while others are dotted around Katowice and Kraków. Hyperscalers such as Google and Microsoft have invested there too, which has encouraged smaller operatives to scout out the area for further investment opportunities.
While Northern Virginia, New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas continue to reign supreme in the US data centre market, a recent by Turner & Townsend suggests Phoenix, Arizona is an emerging hub to watch for 2021. Currently, the state has 40 providers and 76 facilities. Recently announced projects in the Phoenix area include a 50-acre campus in Goodyear, AZ. Iron Mountain (IRM) is also creating a 40-acre three-building project just outside downtown Phoenix.
Jakarta, Indonesia, is still the most sought-after location in the Asia-Pacific region for data centres. The young demographic and projected population growth of 20% of 52 million people over the next 20 years means it has a dynamic and emerging skills pool. However, Japan is enjoying high growth and has several large-scale projects in the construction stage due for completion in 2021. Despite Tokyo being one of the most expensive places to build in, it offers high skills, innovation, low-security risks and state-of-the-art technology, as well as power grid stability.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia look set to continue their domination of the Middle Eastern market in 2021. The Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC) recently announced at GITEX 2020 that it will build two cutting edge centres in 2021 in Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) and the Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi.
KSA continues to develop its data centre market supported by Saudi Arabia’s considerable investment portfolio across many industries and in particular technology and manufacturing. The development of industrial cities will fuel demand for cloud services.
Politically stable, climatically cool and providing some of the lowest-priced renewable energy sources in the world, The Nordics has been an emerging hub for the past five years. The population is highly skilled too, and with the sustainability drives sweeping Europe, low running costs and minimal carbon footprint. Microsoft also plans to open a data centre region in Sweden in 2021, starting with their new facility in Malmo.
NUS and NTU launch cooling project for tropical data centres
The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), have announced a project in an attempt to source and develop new cooling solutions for data centres located in tropical areas. According to the companies, the programme costs S$23mn (US$17.1mn) and plans to research, build and test innovative and sustainable cooling solutions.
The Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT)
The NUS and NTU say that the Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) will act as a research point and innovation hub for the project. Facebook, along with the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF), is also involved, providing funding for the programme. Further support from other partners includes the Infocomm Media Development Authority, Ascenix, CoolestDC Keppel Data Centres, Red Dot Analytics, and New Media Express.
Commenting on working with the companies, Facebook Vice President of Infrastructure, Alex Johnson, said: “We are excited about the opportunity to partner NUS, NTU, Keppel Data Centres and the CoolestSG community to develop innovative solutions that reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption of the average data centre, particularly those located in tropical areas like Singapore”.
The NTU and NUS highlight that Singapore houses 60% of Southeast Asia’s total data centre market, and aims to supply 12% of the country’s total energy needs by 2030. This results in the need to reduce the carbon footprints and power consumption of data centres, meaning more innovative cooling solutions are required, the NTU and NUS said.
Professor Chen Thuan, Deputy President of Research & Technology at the NUS, said: “Data centres are a critical enabler of the digital economy, but the average data centre can exert a significant environmental burden. Aligned with RIE 2025, sustainability is a key research focus of NUS, and our researchers have deep expertise in developing integrated solutions for tropical, urban and Asian settings”.
How will the Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) help to provide cooling solutions?
According to the NUS and NTU, the STDCT will be built using equipment such as a novel desiccant-coated heat exchanger and a StatePoint Liquid Cooling System (SPLC) designed by both Nortek Air Solutions and Facebook. The institutions also say they will adopt chip-level hybrid cooling to ensure servers remain cool.
Furthermore, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) will aim to manage the “smart operations” of the technologies so that the data centres are water and power efficient, as well as able to preserve equipment and servers.
The NTU and NSU said in a joint statement the combination of the cooling technologies could reduce energy consumption “significantly” and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25%, compared to traditional air-cooled data centres. If adopted industry-wide across the entire tropical region, the energy usage of the data centre industry could potentially be lowered by at least 40%”, the companies said.
The STDCT is expected to be operational by 1 October 2021.