On November 19 and 20 Data Centres Ireland, the Irish industry’s leading trade exhibition and conference, once again took over the RDS, demonstrating how the landscape — and country — is being changed by the data revolution.

The show was a resounding success, with more than 1,700 attendees visiting the twin-track conference which featured more than 70 speakers and panellists and addressed both the strategy and operational aspects affecting data centres and the Irish market.

Data Centres Ireland 2019, held in the RDS, Dublin, from November 19-20.

As well as visiting the 100-plus stands showcasing the latest in products technology, services and solutions, attendees took the opportunity to share their knowledge while networking with peers.

This year Enterprise Ireland, which supports the event, flew in an international delegation to the event, including globally recognised businesses such as Bloomberg, QTS Data Centers, Cologix and Sunlife.

The delegation, comprised of more than 40 industry decision makers, also included project management and construction companies such as France’s Critical Building, APL, the DLR Group and Batska Consulting from the US, demonstrating that today all eyes are on data centre building expertise concentrated in Ireland.

Powering forward

Debates at the conference went well beyond the nuts and bolts of infrastructure: given how important data is to the world, and the sector is to Ireland, unsurprisingly social and political questions arose.

Brendan Marren, country sales manager for Centrica Business Solutions, said energy was the top issue for the sector— a question with political consequences.

“The expansion of the sector is great for Ireland Inc, and great for investment, but the grid can’t keep up with the rate of the development. The data centres [simply] can’t get enough power,” he said.

Marren, former managing director of CES Power Ireland, said there were two options: stop building data centres, or look towards on-site power generation.

Centrica is doing the latter with a focus on distributed power, he said. “We deliver that from feasibility to design, build and final operation. It’s fully design-build and-operate [and] we become the virtual grid.

“It’s pioneering for disturbed energy worldwide, not just in Ireland and not just in data centres. Because of the problems in Ireland data centres are leading a distributed energy change [and] because they’re so power intensive this is pioneering the change globally.

“This will position Ireland as a leader in distributed energy,” he said.

The introduction of distributed energy will also help the country reach its target of 70 per cent of power generated by renewables by helping to manage the baseload.

“Resilience and climate are certainly issues [and] renewables need to be complemented with a distributed energy system,” said Marren.

One use of energy in a data centre right now, of course, is cooling, but if one exhibitor, EDPAC International, gets its way, that will change.

'Negative PUE'

A major HVAC provider, EDPAC International’s goal is to achieve 'negative PUE' (power usage effectiveness). In simple terms, to produce more power in the data centre than is actually used.

“I think we’re in a period of serious change in data centres in the next five to seven years,” said Noel Lynch, EDPAC’s managing director.

Lynch spoke about the future at a debate chaired by Dr John Summers, a senior academic from the Institute of Thermofluids in the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds.

Without major work the problem is going to get worse, he said. “They talk about big data. Well, I’d say we haven’t touched it yet. if you look at where its going from where we now all you’ll see is more.

"I just bought a new oven and it connects to the internet, for some reason, then you have the internet of things, autonomous vehicles and the rollout of 5G.

“There is going to be an exponential increase in data,” he said.

Lynch also noted that a change in the method of processing will have an impact on heating and cooling, and therefore power: traditional scalar CPUs are being augmented more and more by general purpose graphical processing units, or GPUs.

“Processors are going from 300 to 400 watts to knocking on the door of one kilowatt,” he said. “You could be looking at 20 kilowatts per rack.”

Inevitability of greater carbon taxes

With growing concern about climate change and the inevitability of greater carbon taxes this will come into focus. However, at present cooling accounts for a fraction of total power used, typically three to seven per cent.

“The next logical step is to start using water, which is an order of magnitude less again,” said Lynch.

This is also where negative power use comes in: water heat exchangers, much easier to use than air-based units, can capture the heat and reuse it.

EDPAC International is currently working with Trinity spin-out Nexalus to deploy this technology.

“Air is coming off at 40 to 50 degrees [but] to harness heat from air is very difficult, but if you can run the water at that temperature you can use it for district hearing or other uses,” he said.

The future of data

One major exhibitor was telecoms giant Huawei. Perhaps best known to the public as mobile phone manufacturer, Huawei, of course, is a leader in telecoms infrastructure equipment and is leading the charge on 5G.

“In Ireland, we provide solutions in transmission, networking, energy, storage and computing,” a Huawei spokesperson said.

Huawei’s Enterprise Business Group is focused on delivering cutting-edge ICT infrastructure for customers: state-of-the-art enterprise infrastructure is something that organisations of all sizes need to help scale and manage their data needs.

“With regard to our smart data centre solutions we provide a wide range of Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) Systems, Smart Lithium-ion Batteries, Modular Data Centres and Data Centre Cooling Systems — all of these solutions are managed by our AI enabled Intelligent Data Centre Management System," added the spokesperson.

Huawei’s Data Centre Interconnect Solutions connect Data Centres at ultra large bandwidths and its Dorado Storage Solutions provide scalable, reliable and market leading performance suitable for all types of businesses.

'Important requirement for organisations'

"This is an important requirement for organisations who deploy large databases particularly in the mobile carrier, finance, government, and manufacturing sectors. The world is gradually moving towards an intelligent era,” he said.

Hugh Robinson, exhibition director of DataCentres Ireland, was pleased with the event. He said: "The halls were busy with a greater number of exhibitors than before and, accordingly, attendance was up 13 per cent, too. “This was the biggest and best attended Data Centres Ireland ever.” 

Robinson doesn’t intend to rest on his laurels, however. Instead, work is already under way to make next year’s exhibition bigger and better again. “We’ve already got 60 per cent of stalls rebooked for 2020,” he said.

Data Centres Ireland will next run at the RDS from November 17-18, 2020. Visit www.datacentres-ireland.com to find out more.