ABB has compiled a list of the key challenges facing its customers in 2022, which all fall under the megatrend of sustainability and using resources more efficiently to reduce energy waste and build greener data centres.
The switch to sustainable power
Hot on the heels of the COP26 climate change summit, sustainability and ambitions to keep global warming under 2oC will be top of the agenda for data centre operators in 2022. One way we will see data centres do this is by supporting the shift to more renewable power generation by switching to UPS with Frequency Regulation Functionality (FRF). This technology allows the UPS to interact with the grid and provide balancing services from unused reserves of power.
Next year, we will also start to see more Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) providing alternate power for data centres, as well as the rollout of pilots for the use of fuel cells, which will reduce CO2 emissions over traditional diesel gensets.
Move to MV
In 2022, there will be an increase in demand for larger data centre facilities and an uplift in demand for incoming Medium Voltage (MV) power. There are a lot of advantages to incoming MV power such as higher reliability and less losses. While some data centre operators may not be as familiar with MV gear, there are many safety offerings available to mitigate risk, such as arc resistant switchgear and arc limiting technology, which will become more standard in larger data centres.
More modular solutions
With the race on to create more capacity to cope with exponential global demand, 2022 will see more data centre operators favouring the use of modular and prefabricated building models over traditional ‘stick built’ approaches. Using modular, scalable equipment and prefabricated and predesigned solutions, such as eHouses and skids, reduce build completion time by as much as 50% compared to traditionally built data centres. These modular solutions often have built-in digital capabilities, such as energy and asset management functions, which can help data centres measure and manage their energy consumption as they grow.
The skills gap
In 2022, the growing shortage of skilled workers and contractors will have a major impact on the sector’s ability to build new capacity. As well as a shortage of specialist sub-contractors and trades, there is also increasing difficulty in recruiting and retaining data centre staff, which will further add challenges to the industry next year. As a result, we are likely to see more interest in remote support services in 2022, as these provide fast support and troubleshooting via immersive augmented reality and other digital platforms, giving operators access to the advanced technical expertise they don’t have inhouse.
With the latest research showing that outages now cost operators’ customers on average $740,000, 2022 will see a shift in data centre operations towards avoiding unplanned down time using the latest technologies such as digitalisation and preventative maintenance as well as more lean topologies which champion efficiency and utilisation. Data centre outages are getting more expensive and more disruptive – such as the outage which brought down Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram in October – and this is one trend data centres will want to see less of next year.
Dave Sterlace, Head of Technology for ABB Global Data Centre Solutions, says: “The five key trends we’ve identified for 2022 show that data centre operators need to shift their focus in the next 12 months to focus on sustainable, robust and reliable growth.
“It’s been well documented that the demand for data is growing at a phenomenal rate, but to keep pace data centre operators need to use their resources in the smartest way, to ensure growth in the sector is sustainable for their customers and the planet.
“Clever technological solutions can provide answers to some of the challenges the industry will be facing in 2022, but some aspects, such as the skills gap, will need longer term solutions which will require time and investment.”