Rittal’s Key Trends in Data Centres for 2020

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By Clive Partridge, Rittal’s Technical Manager for IT Infrastructure

Growing volumes of data, a secure European cloud (data control), rapid upgrades of data centres and rising energy consumption are key areas when it comes to IT/data centre trends in 2020.  

Open Compute Project (OCP) technology and heat recovery are two initiatives which offer solutions for the challenges of the present.

According to the market researchers at IDC (International Data Corporation), humans and machines could be generating 175 zettabytes of data by 2025.  To put this in perspective, if this amount of data were stored on conventional DVDs it would mean 23 stacks of data discs, each of them reaching up to the moon.  With data growth averaging 27 per cent annually, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing increasing pressure on the IT infrastructure. Few companies can afford to increase their data storage by almost a third every year so IT managers are increasingly relying on IT services from the cloud.

However, businesses using cloud solutions from third-party providers do lose some control over their corporate data. That is why, for example, the US Cloud Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data) allows US authorities to access data stored in the cloud, even if local laws where the data is stored prohibit this.

“Future success in business will be sustainable if they keep pace with full digital transformation and integration. Companies will use their data more and more to provide added value – increasingly in real time – for example in the production environment,” says Dr Karl-Ulrich Köhler, CEO of Rittal International.

“Retaining control over data is becoming a critical success factor for international competitiveness,” he adds.

Trend #1: Data control

The self-determined handling of data is thus becoming a key competitive factor for companies. This applies to every industry where data security is a top priority and where the analysis of this data is decisive for business success. Examples include the healthcare, mobility, banking and manufacturing industries.

Companies are now faced with the questions of how to process their data securely and efficiently, and their choices typically centre around whether to modernise their own data centre, invest in edge infrastructures, or use the cloud.

The European “Gaia-X” digital project is due to begin in 2020.   This is an initiative of the Federal Ministry for Economics and Energy (BMWi). The aim is to develop a European cloud for the secure digitalization and networking of industry which will also form the basis for using new artificial intelligence (AI) applications. The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft has drawn up the “International Data Spaces” initiative in this context. This virtual data room allows companies to exchange data securely.The compatibility of their own solutions with established (cloud) platforms (inter-operability) is also covered.

It means that geographically widespread, smaller data centres with open cloud stacks might be able to create a new class of industrial applications performing initial data analysis at the point where the data is created while using the cloud for downstream analysis. One potential solution is ONCITE. This turnkey (plug-and-produce) edge cloud data centre can store and process data where it arises, enabling companies to retain control over their data when networking along the entire supply chain.

Trend #2: Standardisation in data centres with OCP

The rapid upgrade of existing data centres is becoming increasingly important for companies as the volume of data needing to be processed continues to grow.  Essential requirements for this growth are standardised technology, cost-efficient operation and a high level of infrastructure scalability.

The OCP technology (Open Compute Project) with its central direct current distribution in the IT rack is becoming an interesting alternative for more and more CIOs. This is because DC components open up new potentials for cost optimisation. For instance, all the IT components can be powered centrally with n+1 power supplies per rack. This allows for more efficient cooling because fewer power packs are present. At the same time, the high degree of standardisation of OCP components simplifies both maintenance and spare parts management. The average efficiency gain is around five percent of the total current.

Rittal expects that OCP will become established in data centres as an integrated system platform in 2020. New OCP products for rack cooling, power supply or monitoring will enable rapid expansion with DC components. Furthermore, new products will support the conventional concept of a central emergency power supply where the power supply is safeguarded by a central UPS.  As a result, it will no longer be necessary to protect every single OCP rack with a UPS based on lithium-ion batteries so the fire load in the OCP data centre is reduced considerably.

Trend #3: Heat recovery and direct CPU cooling

Data centres release huge amounts of energy into the environment in the form of waste heat. As the power density in the data centre grows, so too do the amounts of heat, which can then potentially be used for other purposes.

So far, however, the use of waste heat has proven too expensive, because consumers are rarely found in the direct vicinity of the site for example. In addition, waste heat, as generated by air-based IT cooling systems, is clearly too low at a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius to be used economically.

In high-performance computing (HPC), IT racks generate high thermal loads; often in excess of 50 kW.  Here, direct processor cooling with water is significantly more efficient than air cooling, delivering return temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees.  This can be used to heat domestic hot water, or use heat pumps, or feed heat into a district heating network.  However, CIOs should be aware that only about 80 percent of the waste heat can be drawn from an IT rack, even with a direct CPU water cooling. IT cooling is still needed by the rack for the remaining 20 percent.

During 2020, we believe significantly more CIOs will become involved in deciding how the previously unused waste heat from the data centre can be used economically.

Trend #4: Integration of multi-cloud environments

Businesses need to be assured that they can run their cloud applications on commonly used platforms, and in any country; this calls for a multi-cloud strategy.   From management’s point of view, this is a strategic decision based on the knowledge that their organisation will develop into a fully digitised business.    For example, companies can deliver an excellent user experience by minimising delays with the appropriate availability zones on site.  This means that companies will choose one or more availability zones worldwide for their services, depending on their business requirements.  Strict data protection requirements can be met by a specialised local provider in the target market concerned.  A vendor-open, multi-cloud strategy delivers exactly that: combining the functional density and scalability of hyper-scalers with the data security of local and specialised providers such as Innovo Cloud.  So the second that a business decision is made, an invoice can be generated simply by pushing a button – this is what is making multi-cloud strategies one of the megatrends of the coming years.

There will be further steps taken towards digital transformation, further accelerating continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) pipelines with cloud-native technologies – applications designed and developed for the cloud computing architecture. Automating the integration and delivery processes then enables the rapid, reliable and repeatable deployment of software.