Data centers are 5th largest electricity consumers: Omer Wilson, Digital Realty

Data centers stand to be the key component of the infrastructure that spearhead the digital economy of a region. In June this year, Digital Realty, a provider of customer driven data center solutions, launched its second data center in Loyang, Singapore. Omer Wilson, Senior Director of Marketing, Digital Realty, APAC in an interview with Techseen talks about the growing demand for database storage and the company’s expansion plans in the APAC region. Excerpts:
Techseen: Digital Realty has recently revealed its plan to expand its presence in Franklin Park. What new do you plan to incorporate in the new facility?
Wilson: Franklin Park is one of the existing large customer requirements with us that is growing. The new facility requires a standard around how we build, as what we see there are the premium data center builders in the market. What I have seen in Europe as well as the US facilities is that you can really walk into a Digital Realty data center and you wouldn’t know which country you are in as the build is exactly the same. So it’s very important to customers that we maintain this and provide them with the same infrastructure.
Techseen: With data centers facing a massive growth in network traffic as well as an increase in the number of concurrent users accessing services and applications over the network, is there any adverse impact on the performance and protection of the network?
Wilson: The increased traffic is driving up the number of cloud centers. Hence, the security angle is becoming more and more relevant because it is on the top of mind of customers as well. Initially, financial institutions and banks were the ones to put data on the cloud. Customers are pretty well-versed with the cloud now. But what’s challenging now is that cloud security is being called to question when hacking incidents occur. That’s why large cloud companies are investing huge amounts in logical physical security of data centers.
Techseen: Data center equipment needs to be serviced at regular intervals. What training and certifications do your hands-on engineers have?
Wilson: The biggest risk is always people in companies as well as technology and equipment. Especially with BYOD practice now, how much can you lock down? We follow various guidelines and now we have also started putting GoPro cameras during the maintenance schedules. This process can be risky — if you are literally turning the power off and testing the backup. So you have to follow certain steps while doing that, otherwise you can lose control of the situation. We use the GoPros to check how people are following the process, hence there is a big control over employees during this.
From what we have seen in customers, especially the big ones, they are vigilant about how they choose employees, how they train them and they nurture them. And what we have also seen is that they generally limit the engineering teams. But at the end of the day, you can train only so much. What can be done is mitigate the plans around when something does happen.
Techseen: How do you ensure physical and virtual security at your data centers?
Wilson: We don’t cover physical security as clients have the revenue and capital to build their own security solutions. There are guidelines issued by government authorities to ensure the security of data centers, which also lists down the requirements as to what the data center should contain. So both the network security and the logical security are taken care of by the customers through various tools and solutions. Our involvement in stopping people getting to the servers, which are in physical buildings, is low.
Techseen: How has the acquisition of Telx in October 2015 helped you escalate your efforts in meeting your customers’ needs?
Wilson: Telx is a very large company that we purchased. They are involved in the co-location of data centers. They have always been seen as wholesale leaders in terms of the physical building. They take care of the services and the connectivity. Telx owned some of the most valuable data centers in the US, both on the west coast as well as the east coast, mainly the points where the internet comes in and goes out.
They are also present in other points where there are multiple providers and content delivery networks in one location, like Netflix, YouTube. Hence their acquisition has helped us move closer to where the content is.
Techseen: What is the sole purpose behind Connected Campus and how has it proven to be beneficial to you?
Wilson: For Connected Campus, Singapore is going to be the first APAC model. We have started in the US with it and similarly, we will do in Europe. Imagine the hybrid cloud which has some content on the public cloud like Microsoft and Google, but they will keep some content on the private cloud or within their own location. This is because many companies, especially financial institutions don’t wish to give some of their data away, where they know there will be other customers on the service. So when you are in a hybrid cloud environment, there are a few issues that have to be tackled. One is the security and then latency between the private and public cloud. So our valued proposition in the Connected Campus is that you can put in your information in say, a suite in Loyang for example, and we can establish a secure link with Jurong which is in the west of Singapore in as less as 1.1 millisecond. So we provide a direct cable from your server to the public cloud with companies not having to worry about their private data going into the public Internet. The concept works easier in the US than in Asia, because facilities and systems are way too fast there.
Techseen: As we know, energy efficiency contributes largely in reducing the cost of operating any high-power system. How is Digital Realty optimizing energy efficiency?
Wilson: If we add up all the data centers in the world, it will be the 5th largest electricity user. After the airlines industry, it involves the maximum use of electricity. So there is a big burden on our shoulders to re-value ourselves on the fact that electricity consumption is very efficiently done.
POE or Power Usage Efficiency is what we use to measure this efficiency. The ultimate PUE would be 1 that is quite impossible to achieve. This means with 1 unit of electricity coming in, 1 unit of electricity is needed to cool that electricity. What we find is that all data centers use around 3 to 4 PUE that involves a lot of wastage. So what we have built in Loyang now is with 1.4 PUE. We are largely gathering our efforts now around how we build the cooling technology, how we use free air so that we use water much less.
In Dublin, we use outside air instead of chilled water because the climate allows us to. The air gets hot because it is cooling the servers. Then we take the hot air outside, cool it and bring in again. So there is no water consumed. This translates to saving customers’ money and also using less electricity. In the end, sustainability is the need of the hour.
Techseen: At a time when Asian markets have become a key focus for many global players, which region in SEA do you think is best suitable for digital expansion? Why?
Wilson: Our largest footprint is in Singapore. The existing Singapore facility is vast, a 7-8 floor data center in the west of the country. Now we have opened a new one in the east of Singapore, close to the Changi Airport.
Techseen: As of now, you have seven data centers in the APAC region. Do you plan to execute any expansion plans in the region anytime soon?
Wilson: In Asia, we are still very much a large business. As of now, we are providing the space but we are also moving towards providing the service eventually next year. We have data centers in Hong Kong, two in Melbourne, two in Sydney and we are just building one in Osaka for one of the largest US-based cloud company. Japan is still very much in the forefront. Osaka is now coming in line towards the end of 2017. We are going to have space over there to sell ourselves to customers. And now we are very actively looking at Tokyo. Even in Singapore, although we have just got a space in Loyang, we are currently looking at the next piece of land. And China, we get asked a lot but there is no immediate plan. We are still looking at Hong Kong as the location to facilitate China. But in the longer run, we plan to look at the global secondary markets like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Abhinav Mohapatra

An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’ <!--more-->An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’, he has covered and explored multiple facets of the marketing, advertising

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