Local data centre trends – water-cooled hyperscalers?
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
The first panel discussion of W Media’s SEA Awards Summit, zoomed into data centre, cooling innovations and human capital trends in Malaysia.
The panel which was moderated by James Rix of Arcadis, sought to discover how recent digitalisation developments have affected the hyperscale market in Malaysia.
He started off his preamble about an observation that data centres (DC) is an industry that does not seem to innovate much.
The same could not be said of hyperscale data centres, however.
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Hyperscale data centres are often associated with big data producing companies the likes of Amazon, Google, Microsoft and so on.
James said, “The developments within hyperscale moves on very, very quickly.”
What does the future look like for hyperscale innovations in Malaysia? Especially with recent nationwide plans for rapid digitalisation, what has the response been like from the local hyperscale industry?
A hyperscale data centre boom?
Sureshkumar Subramaniam from Accenture opined that despite the pandemic and a new normal, there is huge potential for future growth in Malaysia.
A moratorium on building any more DC in Singapore for the next two to three years, has opened up opportunities for Iskandar, Johor Bahru and Batam in Indonesia.
PIKOM secretary, Ong Chin Seong also observed that there has been good response from the industry towards the digitalisation plan. He observed that local player have been aggressively moving to scale up their data centres into the hyperscale range, since two to three years ago.
“A few are also in planning stage to build hyperscale data centres and enter the game right now.”
Chin Seong noted foreign players have also shown keen interest to build hyperscale data centres as well, but a majority focus on Iskandar and Johor Baharu, two locations south of Malaysia and located near neighbouring Singapore.
He cited Singapore and China players eyeing Malaysia as a DC destination now, due to the neighbour country’s green power quota issue – a moratorium on building any more DC in Singapore for the next two to three years, has opened up opportunities for Iskandar, Johor Bahru and Batam in Indonesia.
Malaysia’s big digital nationwide push has readied a thriving environment for technologies like 5G, big data, cloud, e-commerce, which in turn attracts cloud players now.
On-premise data centre relevancy – shrinking?
Suresh does see on-premise data centres still being developed and constructed.
This is especially so for regulated industries like financial services which prefer to run their own data centre.
To own and maintain support of a tier-3 data centre is costly, that’s why the decision to outsource instead, so, we see the third-party hyperscale data centre industry will be booming in the next many years.
Chin Seong shared that only Microsoft has plans to build a DC in Iskandar, Johor, while the other big cloud players have a longer term plan to build their own hyperscale infrastructure.
“But at this moment, they are looking for data centre space to be outsourced to them.The financial services industry that are looking to outsource (certain functions and workloads) to the cloud, turn to third party hyperscale players due to recent regulator data centre requirements to be met.
Chin Seong said, “To own and maintain support of a tier-3 data centre is costly, that’s why the decision to outsource instead, so, we see the third-party hyperscale data centre industry will be booming in the next many years.”
Power and connectivity industries’ support
With this anticipated boom of hyperscalers, will the ecosystem be ready to support?
Chin Seong shared that our national power utility, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) is very supportive of the data centre industry.
According to him, TNB has also said there was enough power to support the growth of the data centre industry despite its voracious consumption of electricity – a data centre can use as much as 50 megawatt and even up to 100 megawatt of power for larger scale infrastructures. Malaysia has the capacity to support all these.
Chin Seong also mentioned our ongoing cabotage issue which has been niggling the local industry.
“This issue will be resolved, and we are able to resolve it. Once so, we will see more dark fibre coming directly to Malaysia from America, from Hong Kong, from Japan, and Singapore.”
He believed that once this happens, the cable communications industry will be able to support local data centres.
Cooling solutions and infrastructure
There is anticipation for better cooling technologies in Malaysia, given the upcoming demand for hyperscale data centres in Malaysia.
Now, there is time for better planning compared to previous times when air-cooled method was selected instead.”Data centre players can plan ahead now with chilled water systems.
Although the upfront investment is huge, it can provide better energy efficient results and better PUE (power usage effectiveness). This will be the trend moving forward,” Chin Seong also declared.
Proper design and planning of a data centre layout and planning of power capacity, can attribute to take up of chilled water cooling solutions.
“Chilled water cooling system deployment is about removing the heat at the right time, while ensuring energy is used efficiently to maintain conducive temperature for the data centre.”
Now, there is also opportunity to plan and deploy hot aisle and cool aisle containment systems that can improve cooling efficiency by 20-percent, according to the solution vendor’s white paper.
Inevitably, the scale of the data centre determines the efficiency of cooling systems.
Chin Seong is hopeful that data centre players can research solutions for more efficient cooling, instead of depending on solutions from product manufacturers.
The moderator, James, agreed there is a need to look for alternative cooling strategies, given water scarcity in some geographies. He mentioned the viability of full immersion cooling which can remove up to 90-percent of heat servers. However, a use case of this solution for hyperscale data centres, is not known of yet.
The rest of the panel discussion covered areas like the use of artificial intelligence (AI) within data centres. Notably, Edward van Leent from EPI had very insightful views about ongoing human capital development to manage data centres and other technologies.
Sitting in to observe panel discussions about data centres recently, something is brewing on the DC-building front. I am keen to see how collaborative foreign and local players will be when it comes to building out the required infrastructures for Malaysia’s digitalisation to take off in a big way.