Power is integral to any data center. Without electricity, a data center is just a bunch of dormant machines and unused software.
Yet, power supply and demand has become something of a data center battleground. Some cities are so constrained for power from the local grid, and data centers are so hungry for more power that moratoria have been issued on the building of new data centers.
Let’s look at some of the top trends in the data center power market:
1. Power capacity grows
Owned data center capacity for the 38 of the largest cloud and colocation service providers expanded to just under a quarter of a billion square feet by the end of 2021. Power demand is expanding accordingly.
Alan Howard, Principal Analyst, Cloud & Colocation, at research firm Omdia, said that owned data center building power capacity grew by 1,100 MW in the last six months of 2021 to hit 16.1 GW, enough electricity to power 1.2 billion homes.
“Power capacity growth is closely aligned to growth in square footage,” said Howard.
“However, the distribution between segments can vary based on a DC’s underlying purpose as well as the disclosed or estimated power capacity by segment.”
While the amount of increase in power capacity in cloud service provider data centers rose by 12% with 66 new projects coming online, colocation data centers only raised their power capacity by 2% with 48 new projects coming online in the second half of 2021 due to smaller retail deployments from this segment.
Meanwhile, telco-owned DC building power capacity grew by 5% (seven new projects), and the private enterprise segment grew by 11% with 49 new projects coming online.
2. DCIM for power management
As data centers grow in size and compute density, the management of power becomes more complex.
Some racks need more power than others, some aisles can’t cope with the amount of power data center managers want to bring in, and at other times, the power is available, but there isn’t enough cooling capacity to keep equipment temperatures in a manageable range.
These are some of the drivers behind the development of data center infrastructure management systems (DCIM) to monitor and manage devices, power systems, cooling units, and electrical equipment.
“Operators need to know if they have the space, power, and cooling to handle the load,” said Kevin Brown, Senior Vice President, EcoStruxure Solutions, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric.
“DCIM provides planning and modeling capabilities along with energy efficiency tracking.”
New challenges are emerging for data center managers and colocation providers as IT infrastructure continues to spread.
Business continuity depends on everything from the smallest end point to the largest data center, and edge deployments are considered mission critical. A new capability of software tools is required to maintain the resiliency and security of the infrastructure and focus on sustainability, which is emerging as another significant trend.
“The energy consumption and carbon footprint of a company’s data centers needs to be measured and managed,” said Brown with Schneider Electric.
“An emphasis on sustainability means colocation customers will want more insight into what is happening in their space. And they will demand more granular levels of data to understand their energy consumption and carbon footprint.”
Such features represent the latest evolution of DCIM. The goal is to make the hybrid IT environment not only resilient and secure but also sustainable. Schneider Electric, for example, offers EcoStruxure IT solutions that are adding such capabilities to fulfill power requirements.
4. Green data centers
There is a lot of talk about green data centers. Data center operators are currently in the crosshairs due to the huge power draws from data centers around the world.
Some nonprofit groups even post reports about the energy-guzzling nature of data centers. In parallel, there is a movement to move away from power sources such as coal and natural gas toward electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
“Going green has been a significant initiative for data center and technology leaders,” said Bill Kleyman, Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch.
“Entire programs that were developed around green technologies are making waves in our industry.”
Based on surveys by AFCOM, he said 65% of data center respondents are seeing an increase in renewable energy utilization.
“As data centers and edge environments are being built, there is a clear focus on ensuring that these facilities run green,” said Kleyman.
“With 20% indicating that they have an active renewable energy strategy, many more are within the three-year range of deploying further initiatives.”
5. Edge power
Powering the edge is another dominant trend. Enterprises are becoming more and more distributed.
They have centralized data center assets as well as equipment residing with colocation facilities and also in the cloud. And more recently, edge compute requirements have escalated.
With this comes the need to ensure those edge compute resources have enough power. The vast majority of AFCOM survey respondents have either implemented or plan to implement edge locations by the end of 2024.
Those edge deployments may have relatively modest power demands. Most may only require a few kilowatts. Nevertheless, when there are thousands of such edge data centers in play, power demands must be taken into account during planning.