Telefónica Infra offloads another four data centres
The data centre industry and the telecom sector have something of a complicated past. Flash back in time by a decade or so and pretty much every carrier was also a data centre business.
Back in 2019, Telecom Italia and Verizon were among a host of telcos who offloaded their massive portfolios of data centre assets - usually at a loss. Telecom Italia spun off 23 of its facilities, listing the new company on the stock market. Verizon did much the same, selling 24 data centres to Equinix for $3.6bn. The great data centre sell-off has been going on for years and, on the face of it, the trend just doesn’t make sense.
Data centres are an increasingly profitable, healthy business - just look at all the real estate companies sniffing around the market right now. So, why are telcos getting out en masse?
Simple. As the data centre industry grew, telcos operating data centres found themselves increasingly pressured by dedicated data centre providers, which could bring a more focused approach to the industry than the appendicular colocation business units they were operating. Dedicated data centre companies (like Equinix) were running rings around them.
A few telecom companies, like NTT in Japan, have successfully held onto their data centre units by turning them into nearly-autonomous subsidiaries. By creating companies in their own right, these business units have managed to gain the agility and focus necessary to compete with the Equinixes and Digital Realtys of the world.
However, not all telecoms have been so lucky - or shrewd.
Goodbye Telefónica - again
Spanish carrier Telefónica managed to amass a sizable data centre portfolio over the past decade and a half. Then, also in 2019, the company announced that it would be divesting itself of 11 of its data centres spread across seven countries. The assets, located in Spain, the US and Latin America, totalled 29 MW of capacity and were transferred to Asterion Industrial Partners in exchange for just over half a billion euros.
Now, Asterion is carving off another chunk of Telefónica’s business.
On Monday, Telefónica announced that it would be selling a further four data centres - located in Spain and Chile - to Asterion. This time, instead of cold, hard cash, Telefónica is trading its facilities for a 20% stake in Asterion’s Nabaix hosting business.
The deal, which was rumoured to be in the works back in February, will add a further 9.9 MW of capacity to Asterion’s growing portfolio of ex-Telefónica properties.
The decision, which will see Telefónica continue to house its services in the four data centres (much the same as the 2019 agreement with Asterion) is essentially a splitting of benefits. Telefónica continues to host and profit from its cloud services and other digital solutions hosted in its data centres, and Asterion gets an enlarged data centre portfolio already equipped with a sizable anchor tenant.
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.