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AI, Automation, and the Edge: Bringing data centre innovation to underserved markets

Innovation is not often evenly distributed, and we see this in the data centre space. The trends that are shaping data centre facilities in the developed markets of Asia, North America and Western Europe aren’t always deployed across emerging and underserved markets. That has to change.

The local digital hubs must be built with cutting-edge technologies and meet or exceed what is available in existing global hubs. The UAE has emerged as a global leader in Smart Cities, IoT and Artificial Intelligence. Similarly, there’s an opportunity for new markets to emerge as leaders in digital infrastructure.

As digital adoption ramps up in locations that have traditionally been underserved with data centre facilities, we will see new technologies and innovations deployed across unique territories. I see four big trends influencing the development in emerging market data centres:

Innovation in Automation

Throughout the pandemic, data centre operators saw reduced numbers of staff allowed on site. Automation has become an ideal way to increase efficiency, remove human error and ensure data centres can operate continuously with minimal staffing. Remote infrastructure management (RIM) allows operators to manage their IT infrastructure remotely. They can monitor their security, network services and more using RIM.

Across emerging markets where there are skills gaps, automation will provide a way to ensure secure and optimised services are delivered to customers without requiring large teams.

AI Optimisation

As data centres are highly automated environments the digital transformation has allowed for routine day-to-day activities of a facility to be managed without human intervention. A natural extension of this is the deployment of AI in a data centre environment.

According to an AFCOM study, 40% of data centre providers state that they are starting to use robotic and automation software in their facilities. For a data centre looking for sustained success, technologies will lead to a more efficient facility that is able to quickly adapt to climate changes, safety risks and energy and cooling requirements.

Data centre operators can use AI to help manage their cooling systems, allowing for real-time updates on changes so the system can allocate resources to areas as needed. This enables facilities to offer greater levels of consistency no matter where they operate.

Taking It to the Edge

According to Gartner, on average 10% of enterprise data is already created and computed outside of centralised data centres or the cloud. This is expected to reach 75% by 2025.

Edge computing has already impacted data centres as a growing number of applications and services are being hosted at the edge of the network to reduce latency while increasing performance.

The data centre infrastructure is slowly changing as edge computing requires hosting data and applications close to end users and often uses smaller data centre facilities in more geographic locations. This is driving the need for more local digital hubs across a growing number of markets. While global hubs will always be important, the edge is driving demand for world-leading facilities to be rapidly developed in high-growth yet underserved markets.

Greenfields to Green Data Centres

Increasingly large-scale data centres are aiming for a zero-carbon footprint and hyper efficiency. Sustainable data centres and the drive towards efficiency is creating demand for new data centre designs with new cooling techniques, renewable energy supplies and optimised environmental controls.

Green data centres are becoming standard requirements for hyperscalers and cloud service providers globally. This will influence the development of new facilities in underserved markets. In greenfield sites, there’s an opportunity to build sustainability into business and operational models from the ground up.

Looking to the Future

There’s an opportunity for new data facilities in underserved markets to learn lessons from developed markets. Operators can see what is working and delivering the biggest benefits for customers then use this to develop their facilities. The market is moving too fast to take a traditional approach to data centre development and new builds should explore what is possible in data centres. Each trend should fuel data centre design and development and offer customers world-class facilities in local markets.

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