A rapid uptick in investment and analyst interest in the datacentre market across A/NZ shows no signs of abating, as concerns over power costs spiral and existing architecture becomes obsolete.
A handful of recent examples highlight the trend. ASX-listed datacentre provider, NextDC, has acquired a new site in Sydney – a high density technical space with ancillary office and plant space. IT services provider, Interactive Melbourne, has hatched a datacentre complex in Melbourne to meet the demand for clients’ cloud services push.
Earlier in February both HP and Pacnet also launched significant datacentre investments. This widespread investment has been largely due to a deep discrepancy between supply and demand for quality datacentre space that had existed previously, according to industry representatives and analysts.
From a facilities perspective, datacentres are running out of space and capacity, Gartner research vice-president, Phil Sargeant, said.
“Datacentres are aging and not conducive to the new energy-efficient equipment. People are running out of capacity, space and power,” he said.
Indeed, cost containment, business continuity/availability and capacity issues are the most important drivers of strategic change in Australian datacentres in 2011, according to a recent Gartner survey.
Data growth is the leading infrastructure challenge coupled with the fact many datacentres are old and have inefficient infrastructure, Sargeant added.
The datacentre market boom is high on the radar of channel companies and research houses alike. Gartner, as well as Ovum, are extensively discussing the hot trends this month, hosting a gamut of summits and seminars.
One of the biggest shifts relating to datacentres is the cloud computing push – a key reason why service providers appear to be hatching datacentres in droves . Organisations are either looking to virtualisation or cloud computing – whether they build themselves or outsource.
Indeed, the advent of cloud computing is also forcing change in the datacentre.
Datacentres to support cloud services must be able to expand in response to user requirements and ensure organisations only pay for what they use.
Australian start up ZettaGrid, an on-demand cloud computing supplier, is a prime example of a company that has implemented and expanded its datacentres.
ZettaGrid managing director, Dr Nathan Harman, said the company’s massive data sprawl across 40 server racks nationwide and rising operational costs (power) were the main reasons to seek out additional datacentres.
Harman said the company needed to have lower power consumption, high memory density, low rack profile and low cost per GB RAM upgrade path. “Our issue is we can’t buy dense enough racks in power terms, especially in older datacentres,” he said. “We need, for example, 16 kilowatts and many can only give you four. Our model of infrastructure is dense and so it’s a difficult dilemma.”
“Cloud computing is the major reason why datacentre expansion is growing so dramatically.”
Datacentre of the future
According to Gartner's Sargeant, there will also be a big shift away from the siloed approach to IT that is commonplace today, where different vendors are sourced for servers, storage and networking equipment.
“Most vendors are now trying to offer the complete stack – a move towards a more converged, fabric computing environment for datacentres,” he said.
In addition, the frenzy of activity in the datacentre space is fuelling demand for energy-efficient equipment, a step in the right direction towards what many have dubbed the ‘datacentre of the future’.
“A lot of the vendors are putting effort into making equipment energy efficient,” Sargeant said. “The equipment is far more efficient and giving more consideration to energy consumption.”
Efficiency of energy use and in particular cooling are top trends.
“The datacentre of the future looks different to the datacentre of the past. In the past, we had a big open area that organisations plunked equipment into – a football-size floor,” he said. “Today and into the future, we’re building datacentres to go with the equipment requirements, whether it’s high-density or low to medium-density. We’re now compartmentalising sections.”
It’s a view that IDC senior analyst, infrastructure group, Trevor Clarke, agrees with, claiming the newer datacentre investments have significant advantages over the aged competition.
“Traditionally datacentres have been rated at PUE 1.7 for energy efficiency,” Clarke said. “The newer guys are aiming for 1.2 and 1.3 – this brings down the cost of power and cooling.”
And in an economic environment that might soon be hit with a carbon tax, those savings are going to be a significant competitive differentiator. Also the proliferation of, and demand for, datacentres might lead to specialisation opportunities for datacentre investment.
Traditional datacentres have been a horizontal play – offering solutions to a broad market set. While there have been a few exceptions, for the most part datacentre operators have not differentiated themselves by vertical.
“There’s been room to try and target government specifically, because government has particular needs,” Clarke said. “There’s also the resources and mining vertical, which needs access for regional and geographically diverse operations.”
Many Canberra-based datacentres are tweaked towards the former, for instance.
But according to APC country manager, Gordon Makryllos, the vertical play will become a greater topic in the future.
APC recently entered into an alliance with NextDC, and also supplies infrastructure and technology to a wide cross-section of existing vertical and horizontal datacentre players.
“Organisations across the board are finding it smarter to put data into datacentres rather than hosting it themselves,” Makryllos said. “Power and real estate alike are becoming expensive propositions.
“At this stage the needs of organisations are mostly universal, but that said there is space emerging for specialisation. We’re seeing datacentres looking at servicing health services – they need to have a deep understanding of the bandwidth requirements of X-Rays, for instance, and need to be able to work an efficient solution to service those clients.”