Solar-powered data centres with power densities of 52 kilowatts (kW) per rack could be reality in the year 2025 as data storage requirements increase, according to a new report.
Data Centre 2025: Exploring the possibilities was commissioned by Emerson Network Power. A total of 829 data centre managers, analysts and Emerson customers took part in the global study, which was a mix of face-to-face interviews and an online survey.
The study received 238 responses from Asia Pacific. However, the vendor did not break down the numbers by country.
In addition, it received 241 responses from the United States, 159 from South America, 170 from Western Europe and 21 responses from other countries.
Twenty five per cent of the 238 APAC respondents said that solar power will supply a significant amount of power to their data centres. They also agreed that power densities could reach 52 kW per rack as more digital information is stored in facilities.
According to Emerson Network Power's Australia and New Zealand national sales director, Robert Lindsell, a 10 megawatt data centre currently uses “the same energy as a small town".
Solar arrays could be a feature of data centres that are on the peripheral of cities or in places that receive lots of sunshine hours such as rural New South Wales, he added. However, many solar array panels would be needed to provide power to a facility.
“If only 20 per cent of the [data centre’s] power comes from solar energy, the size of the [solar] array is going to be at least double the size of the data centre itself,” he said.
One Australian data centre provider, NextDC (ASX: NXT), began offering a renewable energy service to its customers in December 2013, following the construction of a $1.2 million rooftop solar system at its M1 data centre in Melbourne.
According to NextDC, the system is forecast to generate 550 megawatt hours of power every year. This is equivalent to off-setting more than 670 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per annum.
Customers who take up the service are provided with a carbon footprint reading that shows their solar and grid power consumption.
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'Self healing' data centres
The study also asked respondents about the emergence of smart data centres that are equipped with sensors to warn the data centre manager if something goes wrong.
Forty three per cent of the 829 respondents said that they would like to see data centres use smart technology or data centre infrastructure management (DCIM).
“As the IT equipment starts to draw more power and generate more heat in the data centre, there is sometimes a lag with the cooling catching up,” said Emerson's A/NZ technical services senior manager, Mark Deguara.Read more: Updated: Megaport declares victory over 'zombie carrier data centre'
“Ideally, we would like the DCIM system to kick in and ramp up the cooling. It’s like your house – if you put the cooling on before it gets hot, it will be a lot more efficient than if you let it get hot and then try and cool it,” said Deguara.
Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick