The need for speed

Jon Healy, Operations Director at Keysource, the global datacentre and critical environment specialist, discusses the key market trends for 2021 and the benefits of having a multi-disciplined partner to address common project features.

Hold on Tight!

So, new year, new start and all that – what can our dynamic and ever-changing and certainly never dull datacentre sector expect next? The simple answer is more and it will be bigger and faster! More technology, more capacity and more change as businesses and organisations continue to target the nirvana of efficient, flexible, and agile IT models. Suppliers will need to gear up to meet the demand, with the speed in which this is delivered arguably more important than ever. It’s time to accelerate, so put your foot on the pedal – 2021 looks like being an exciting ride.

No excuses

So whether it is about providing a competitive edge with new services, saving money (because let’s face it some sectors have been extremely hard hit by the impact of the pandemic), or maybe responding to social change such as becoming more sustainable, the message is the same – speed is of the essence. Phrases like - “We need time to..” or “It’s complicated…” will no longer be acceptable. This of course will put added pressure on those responsible for its delivery.

Transformation Acceleration

There is no doubt that some of these accelerators will be Covid related as I suspect a fair amount of our “on demand” and lifestyle changes are here to stay. But more generally innovation continues to drive productivity and therefore growth across the board. We are after all in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0) which is seeing the expansion of the connected world with autonomous systems, the internet of things and machine learning, using modern smart technology.

As world digitalisation continues to exponentially grow it will inevitably mean different things to different sectors. For professional data centre operators the challenge will be meeting market demand (largely from cloud providers), R&D specialists pushing innovation in a host of disciplines from medicine to transportation or Public Sector services to evolve key areas of defence, health, infrastructure, and education. For Enterprise there is likely to be an additional focus to enable this whilst striking the right balance to maximise existing investments and remain technically and commercially flexible, whilst sometimes using other people’s data centre’s (the cloud).

High Stakes

For many the speed in which successful execution is completed can be the difference in survival with market share quickly snapped up or ways of working becoming obsolete. However, it is important not to gloss over the importance of “successful” as the stakes are undeniably high. To be unsuccessful risks at worst irrecoverable and at best, long-term issues particularly if the impact is on the availability of customer services or achieving commercial benefits, often their reliance on programme and asset or services that are no longer required. This needs a level of dependability and assurance of outcome as the stakes are too high otherwise.

Importantly Business and Organisations will need to continue to embark on and navigate business critical technology projects delivering the transformation of how IT services are delivered or by enabling new technology, which may provide business transformation in other ways.

It’s all about Convergence (probably)

The common features of these projects are generally where the convergence of technology, engineering, property and people happen. Arguably, depending on the approach, not all of these may be directly relevant, but let’s make no mistake, if they don’t form a direct part of a project they will be in some part of the supply chain and managing all these elements is often the key to success.

In fact, it is this convergence that we at Keysource see as the fundamental challenge to addressing a large proportion of customer needs.

Let’s not forget 5G

The exciting demand of “edge” data centres is a perfect example of where technology, engineering, property and people are required for sustainable deployments and to enable the Internet of Things and automation within constraints of current 5G technology. The shorter wavelength means 5G can carry a lot of data much faster than 4G, but it also means a much shorter range (5G wavelengths have a range of about 1,000 feet, not even 2% of 4G’s range). In simple terms this means we can expect more Edge to deliver a continuous service and meet demand.

A number of “edge” requirements will be able to be delivered by existing facilities - pre-existing edge network -, across a country or globally. Others will require new point solutions to meet requirements. Fortunately there are a whole host of manufacturers of edge data centres with a number providing the IT hardware for a real “plug & play” solution (although I personally often take issue with the “plug” part!) In our experience, crucial planning activity is required for successful deployment and operation, from validating the technology performance of the solution to the geographical location, local logistics, commissioning, and the delivery of on-going operation activities.

Or Sustainability

The issues around ensuring that solutions are sustainable is being driven both by legislation, with the EU data centre sector targeting becoming carbon neutral by 2030 or the UK (as a whole) by 2050, and also by the growing need for corporate social responsibility. How this is delivered relies on the technology, engineering, property and people working in harmony (you see the theme!). It is also worth noting that The Uptime Institute recently reported in 2020 a global PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) average of 1.59 and European average of 1.46. The argument of the usefulness of the PUE metric aside, this indicates that there is certainly opportunity for improvement.

Using software to maximise available capacity and providing the resilience will be a continued focus to improve sustainability. In addition, the transition away from fossil fuels with see further adoption of low-carbon fuel sources, including hydrogen and energy storage. Technologies which will have different types of engineering challenges within property which were not originally designed for their use.

Actually, it’s all about people

But at the heart of all these changes and drivers, it comes down to the people and sadly it’s been well publicised that there is a debilitating skill shortage in the data centre sector, which is being further compounded by the accelerated growth in the industry. With human error the biggest cause of mistakes, knowledge across the IT “stack” from applications & networks to physical IT, data centres and power sources is vital and can significantly de-risk projects and protect brand and reputations.

The value of a multi-disciplined partner

Keysource has been a specialist in data centres and critical environments for more than 40 years and we have recognised the value of being a multi-disciplined partner to address common project features for our customers. It is important for us to understand how our customers use all or part of the IT stack in order to help them make the best decisions. We know that continuing to grow the business across the full data centre lifecycle with consultancy, delivery and operational management enables us to retain the capability which projects require, providing the access to knowledge and experience for customers to make decisions with a dependable partner and assurance of outcome.

For those working in technology, it’s long been recognised that data centres are the backbone of the digital economy, but Coronavirus saw the industry thrust into the public eye on a much wider scale. We’ve seen data centre operators deemed to be critical workers, and witnessed debate into whether all data centres should be classed as Critical National Infrastructure. By Darren Watkins, Managing Director for VIRTUS Data Centres
A global leading data centre company has recently enlisted the support of Bryland Fire Protection Limited to design and install an engineered solution to safeguard their 1,600-rack facility in Slough.
The provision of new data centre supply is a vital component of the European data centre market, not just to ensure there is enough product to satisfy levels of demand, but to ensure that it is the right type of product aligned to changing IT strategies and practices. By James Hart, CEO at BCS (Business Critical Systems).
There is increasing pressure on data centre Operators to make their facilities as energy efficient as possible with global drive towards carbon neutrality. To support this journey Graeme Shaw, Technical Application Manager at Zumtobel, explains how lighting can not only help data centres achieve their sustainability based objectives, but also make them more safe, secure and operationally efficient.
Power and data to remote devices over single twisted pair up to 1000-metres; compact cable (18AWG) and connector format increases flexibility and ease of use; converging corporate, factory and distribution information networks increases productivity, By Stuart McKay, Panduit
There are many different working parts to an effective physical security system. By Neil Killick, Leader of Strategic Business (EMEA), Milestone Systems