Powering the data centre in the era of 5G and the Edge

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Leo Craig, from Riello, believes that Government intervention is required to kick-start participation in DSR.

What are data centres going to look like in the future and what will this mean in terms of power? Riello’s Leo Craig recently addressed some of the industry’s key questions at Data Centre World, held at London’s Excel. Speaking to MCP in an exclusive interview, he pointed out that 5G is going to change the way we process data and the way that data is used, while industry is going to be increasingly reliant on artificial intelligence, digitisation, and big data. 

“The question is, will industrial sites use a Cloud data centre, located many kilometres down the road, which will encounter latency issues; or are they going to use an edge data centre at the point of where the critical process is? I believe we are going to see a reversal of what has happened in the past – businesses previously moved away from on-premise data centres to the Cloud, but parts of the Cloud will now migrate down to the edge of the premise. We need to understand how we are going to power this,” commented Leo Craig. 

He believes that the move to the edge will also have a significant influence on future UPS design: “Modular solutions will be compatible with this trend, but the power densities of modular systems will need to start increasing. The size of the UPS will also have to decrease. Space at the edge is going to be at a premium,” continues Leo Craig. 

He adds that, as the cloud moves to the edge, UPS systems will also need increasing intelligence. The next challenge will be around how to store the energy, he predicts. “There will be a number of pressures facing data centres in the coming years. This will include the fact that diesel generators are increasingly becoming an issue in terms of emissions – they are seen as polluting, even if only fired-up under standby conditions. Diesel generators will come under increasing scrutiny and regulation, while future methods of energy storage may favour Lithium ion batteries.

“This could be a good solution as you get high density. However, the cost is relatively low at present, as there is good availability of the raw materials required for their manufacture. This may not still be the case in five years’ time, however. If we start running out of Lithium ion, the price will start shooting up.” Innovation in battery technology will need to advance further, in order to support the data centres of the future. There will also be an increasing focus on corporate and social responsibility, with more organisations working with utilities to help level out power demands or manage the frequency. 

“This may include frequency response, but the challenge will be to get data centres to understand that they can do this and that they can benefit financially…While there is a lot talk and interest around demand-side response, getting data centres to actually make the final decision to go ahead is still a challenge,” comments Leo Craig. “Data Centres have had the ability to do this, for the past ten years, yet few data centres are actively involved. They say they want to do it, but tomorrow never comes. The Government will need to get involved to make it happen.”

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