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What’s ’24 got in store for the data centre?

Image: Adobe Stock / Blue Planet Studio

Chris Wellfair, Projects Director at Secure I.T Environments, gives his thoughts on what will be driving data centre decisions in 2024.

2023 was an interesting year in the tech world, and if there is one phrase that sums it up it is probably ‘Artificial Intelligence’. How will we all use it in business? How will it change all our lives, and how should governments regulate it? As I write this, it has even dominated mainstream news in November with the chaos in the Open AI boardroom.

For those with responsibility for IT infrastructures and data centres, there is much more evolving in the industry that will change the way we approach data centre design and upgrades over the coming year. Here are my thoughts on the most pressing trends and opportunities that will impact the data centre:

High performance computing

Edge computing, the Internet of Things, and even some localised processing of data for AI means more is happening in the data centre, not just in the cloud. One of the ways this is impacting the data centre is increased processing power and heat generated, but it is actually cabinet density that is having the greatest impact.

At a time when building new data centres is a prohibitive cost for many, they are choosing to employ larger cabinets and pack them more densely. To put this is context, we now regularly see cabinets with 20-30kW power ratings, where previously a typical rating would be 5kW. This trend to more densely packed cabinets is certainly set to continue.

Reinvesting in skills

The economic uncertainly of the last few years, and of course the pandemic prior to that, meant many plans for business went on hold. Not only this, but there was a need to tightly control costs and cut back wherever possible. For IT teams, one of the biggest areas for those cutbacks was on training, which for some companies has been very challenging.

It has led to skills falling short of current IT trend needs, and in some cases being lost completely when individuals leave a company. A lot of companies are telling us they need and want to reverse that trend in 2024, building out structured training programmes, as they regain freedom in their budgets. This investment will help with staff retention and give teams the skills needed to reinvigorate their mothballed projects.

Freecooling

The huge increases in energy costs have been very challenging for data centre managers, with many looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their cooling infrastructure. This had led them to explore different technologies that exist on the market and freecooling has been attracting more and more attention – it will certainly be used in more data centre deployments in 2024. Freecooling uses less energy than traditional cooling, and works by expelling hot air from cabinets into the atmosphere, and replacing it with cooler air from outside.

Microservices

One of the changes impacting data centres is the increased use of microservices to build and structure applications, rather than larger on-premises applications. At first glance, it might be hard to see how this directly impacts the data centre, but it is important that when the microservices are running locally, and are mission critical, then extra care does need to be taken. Planning for resilience that spans servers, cabinets, and network connections is critical. In a sense, it means thinking more like a cloud provider for your on-premises solutions.

Sustainability and carbon reporting

The industries data centres have for a long time been working to reduce their environmental impact and energy consumption, whether through efficient cooling, managing server utilisation, or lowering energy consumption. 2024 is the year where many companies, if they have not done so already, will begin scrambling to ensure they meet sustainability reporting requirements. Starting in 2025, new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive legislation (CSRD) will require organisations to calculate and publish their emissions in a much tighter framework than has been required to date.

The biggest companies – those that are exchange listed with more than 500 employees – will be required to report on their 2024 emissions from 2025. That is nearly 12,000 organisations in Europe. In 2025, companies with two or more of other criteria will be required to comply with the framework too. Those criteria are revenues of over €40 million, €20 million in assets or over 250 employees.

Whilst your company may not be required to report directly to the EU, if a company within the EU uses your services, it will need you to be able to provide the information for its own reporting. If you can’t provide it, they will need to consider moving their businesses elsewhere.

Look out for the curve ball

Whilst none of us have a crystal ball – and there is very likely to be a curve ball or two – if recent years are anything to go by, the importance of the data centre to organisations is only growing. It is incumbent on us as the designers, managers and manufacturers of data centres and equipment to make sure we are doing all we can to stay ahead of the curve and meet the needs of the businesses our data centres serve.

Chris Wellfair
Chris Wellfair
Projects Director at Secure I.T. Environments

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