Having been involved in the industry for over 20 years, Giordano Albertazzi, president of Vertiv EMEA knows a thing or two about data centres. Here, Giordano answers our questions and fills us in on Vertiv’s latest projects, as well as offering his insight into major industry changes, issues and how we can hope to achieve the holy grail of sustainability.
What were you doing before you joined Vertiv and how did you first get involved in the industry?
I have been serving this industry for about 20 years now, starting as a materials planning manager for Liebert Europe in 1998, moving on to hold positions with increasing responsibilities such as plant manager, marketing director, vice president services and vice president sales. It has been an incredible journey from the Emerson days – a great legacy that Vertiv is continuing to build on, but with a renewed spirit.
Can you tell us about any projects you are currently working on?
We’re working on a number of exciting new projects at the moment, and have many more coming down the line over the next few months. One of our recent ground-breaking projects is with Telefonica, where we can now provide Energy-Savings-as-a-Service (ESaaS) to the business. This project allows us to support Telefonica by conducting assessment reports that outline projected KPIs as well as energy savings for each site.
Another revolutionary project is around using UPS batteries as energy storage to help balance and reinforce the grid. We recently announced a partnership with E.ON in Germany and are already working to bring these solutions to other markets around the world. This will allow UPS owners to shift from being energy consumers to energy ‘prosumers’, lowering energy costs while compensating the fluctuations of the renewable sources powering the grid.
What are the biggest changes you have seen within the data centre industry over the last few years?
We are in an industry that is constantly evolving, and we’ve seen a number of changes over the past few years. One of the most significant is around cloud providers ‘going colo’. Cloud adoption is happening so fast that cloud providers can’t keep up with capacity demands. In addition, their focus is primarily on service delivery. As a result, they are turning to colocation providers to meet their capacity demands.
Which major issues do you see dominating the data centre industry over the next 12 months?
There will be a number of challenges that the data centre industry will need to face over the next 12 months. However, I believe there are two major areas that will take the stage.
The first is edge computing. It has become one of the most talked about trends in IT, and for good reason. With an exponentially increasing number of connected devices and the huge volumes of data they generate, bringing computing to the edge is becoming vital. However, while we’ve acknowledged this is the way in which technology is moving, over the next 12 months we’ll begin to see a real change in the compute and storage infrastructure required to support this smart and connected future – particularly at a local level.
In addition, we’ll continue to see the rise of the Gen 4 data centre. As mentioned, organisations are increasingly relying on the edge, and the Gen 4 data centre will become even more important in holistically and harmoniously integrating edge and core data storage, elevating these new architectures beyond simple distributed networks.
The Gen 4 data centre will deliver nearreal-time capacity in scalable modules that leverage optimised thermal solutions, high-density power supplies, lithium-ion batteries, and advanced power distribution units. Sophisticated monitoring and management technologies will pull it all together, allowing hundreds or even thousands of distributed IT nodes to operate in concert to reduce latency and up-front costs, increase utilisation rates, remove complexity, and allow organisations to add network-connected IT capacity when and where they need it.
Are there any emerging or existing technologies that are perhaps gaining more traction than they once were, or any industry trends you’ve noticed?
I expect to see Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems grow in traction over the next few years, given the new possibilitiesthat are now opening up. Our recent partnership with E.ON in Germany exemplifies this.
Until now, UPS systems have come into play when systems fail or are disrupted for emergency power. This presents an opportunity for the batteries to ‘do more’. In short, there is the potential for owners of UPS systems to sell stored energy in the batteries back to the national grid. This then provides flexibility to the grid meaning it can run more efficiently and cheaply, particularly at peak times when it is running short of capacity.
Importantly, it opens up a new revenue stream for UPS system owners. While previously organisations may have struggled to justify investing in a UPS on cost grounds, it now has an added business benefit by providing additional revenue.
How would you encourage a school leaver to get involved in your industry? Do you feel there is a current skills gap?
This is an industry that genuinely underpins our future digital world. Connected devices, IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and similar technologies are becoming engrained in our everyday lives. But, they are only possible if the infrastructure is in place to support them.
As such, it’s an exciting time and the industry as a whole, needs to work together to make it as attractive as possible; importantly, because we are facing a skills shortage. Offering programmes to students that allow them to truly experience the industry and the opportunities it has to offer is a key way of ensuring that we’re getting the best talent. At Vertiv, we run graduate programmes designed to immerse young graduates in diverse projects, enabling them to develop their skills and kick-start their career.
With regards to sustainability, with data centres using so much power, how important do you think it is for the industry to do its bit to help the impact of climate change?
Energy consumption by data centres is set to soar more than three times over the next 10 years. As a key contributor to energy demand, it’s vital the industry works together to look to alternative sources and ultimately minimise the impact on climate change.
We’ve seen great strides made around carbon emission reduction in recent years, and more recently, controls are being introduced to reduce the use of some refrigerants due to their global warming potential.
For example, the EU F-Gas Regulation aims to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in Europe by 79% by 2030. Regulations such as these are forcing the industry to innovate and develop new technologies and cooling strategies. At Vertiv, we’re tracking progress around different types of refrigerants to develop alternative designs so that we can continue to contribute towards carbon emission reduction.
How feasible/realistic is it for a data centre to switch to renewable energy sources?
We already see this happening – some of the big hyperscalers are increasingly investing in renewable sources and freecooling solutions to cut energy bills. Just recently we saw Facebook commit to powering its global operations with 100% renewable energy by the end of 2020 and has signed contracts for more than three gigawatts of new solar and wind energy since 2013.
But feasibility really depends on the geographic location of the data centre and its proximity to renewable power sources. In order to become the standard, the switch to renewables needs to be supported by energy providers as a whole – this is not just a data centre industry issue.
There is speculation that the physical data centre has had its day. What are your views on that?
Physical data centres have definitely not had their day, but they will inevitably change. The greatest areas of growth in the data centre market are in hyperscale facilities – typically cloud or colocation providers – and at the edge of the network. With the growth in colo and cloud resources, traditional data centre operators now have the opportunity to reimagine and reconfigure their facilities and resources that are critical to local operations.
Organisations with multiple data centres will continue to consolidate their internal IT resources; they are likely to transition what they can to the cloud or colos and downsize to smaller facilities, to leverage rapid deployment configurations that can scale quickly. These new facilities will be smaller, but also more efficient and secure, with high availability – consistent with the mission-critical nature of the data these organisations seek to protect.