Building a Five-Star Hotel for IT Infrastructure

The demand for an efficient repository to store and manage data has risen rapidly

Imagine renting an air-conditioned room in a five-star hotel with a fire suppression system, continuous electricity supply and regular maintenance. All you have to do is bring your luggage and pay your rent. Now imagine the same thing for your servers…

The magnanimous need for increased computing capacity in a post-Covid-19 world has paved the way for the rising number of data centres across the world to store, manage and disseminate data without increasing the carbon footprint.

A report by Anarock and Binswanger, released in August, stated that India’s data industry is worth $5.6 billion. With 161 functional colocation data centres in 26 regions, as per Data Center Map, India envisions achieving an IT capacity of 1752 MW by 2025. Bengaluru beats everyone with 28 colocation data centres while Mumbai follows closely with 23 data centres.

One such upcoming data centre, MU1, is nestled in the heart of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Princeton Digital Group’s (PDG) first data centre in India, which rests strategically over an area of six acres in Airoli, next to the 220kW Kalwa power station.

Hotel Colo

PDG India’s General Manager, Vipin Shirsat defines colocation data centres, or colos, as five-star hotels for IT infrastructure. Clients can rent space for their company’s servers, routers, and other networking equipment to set up and maintain control over their devices, while the data centre maintains an IT-optimized environment that includes four elements –

  • Continuous power supply and backup power
  • Cooling technology
  • Diverse Fibre Path
  • Physical Security

Shirsat said that a colocation data centre typically targets the core banking industry, the payments industry and the content industry. He added that the PDG centre’s strategic location next to the Kalwa power station ensured a continuous power supply to run the data centre. Interestingly, MMR has witnessed three major power breakdowns in the past three years, which brought it to a standstill. Shirsat explained that, if the power went out, then the two data centre buildings (one under construction) were capable of running for 48 hours with 1.2 million litres of diesel as a backup. He added that each building would have 30 generators covered with a solar-panelled roof, all of which are under construction.

The first building at the PDG data centre is built for a capacity of 24MW, of which currently the first floor of 4MW is open for operations, specifically for enterprise clients. The second and the third floor will be providing a capacity of 10MW each to hyperscalars that are going live early next year.

Power guzzler

Data centres require tremendous power and an uninterrupted power supply for maintaining operational stability during power fluctuations and outages to eliminate any loss of data. According to the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), globally, data centres account for about 3% of energy use, equivalent to about 200 million tons of carbon emissions, which is expected to grow by over 30% every year.

PDG’s MU1 data centre proudly boasts of obtaining an IGBC Platinum certification with a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of less than 1.5. Commenting on that, Shirsat said, “There are different stages of design – choosing equipment, operation and flexibility. So all of that goes into the IGBC Platinum certification evaluation. The IGBC has extremely stringent PUE requirements, which is how much power is utilized for cooling requirements, and they assessed our data centre based on that.”

Adopting a green approach to data centre energy and environment management can be a significant investment. PDG stated that the MU1 would be powered up to 40% by renewable energy and will operate on minimal water consumption. The terrace floor comprises the chiller fans and ten tanks containing five lakh litres of water with a capacity of 50,000 litres per tank which will remain in a closed loop.

Data centres use different tiers to describe their infrastructure. The PDG data centre is an Uptime Tier III data centre with multiple paths for power and cooling, along with systems to update and maintain it without taking it offline. A Tier III data centre will ideally face 1.6 hours of downtime annually.

When asked why did the company go for Tier III and not Tier IV, Shirsat said the automation in the PDG data centre is selective as compared to any Tier IV data centre which would require more isolation and automation resulting in a higher cost of investment.

Upskilling data centres

With great power comes great responsibility and hence a data centre requires a skilled task force to support its smooth functioning. To keep up with the pace of operations providers would need to upskill and right skill existing and new resources. Companies such as ST Telemedia Global Data Centres India (STT GDC) and PDG have special programs to recruit and train engineers.

STT GDC India launched a Data Centre Operations Management course, in collaboration with the Don Bosco Tech Society (DBTech) and Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF). PDG has also launched a Graduate Engineer Training programme that recruits engineers for design portfolios, from colleges in and around Navi Mumbai, and trains them by exposing them to small projects. PDG has also proposed the inclusion of new topics such as precision cooling and conditioned power in the engineering syllabus.

Paving the road ahead

We witnessed the arrival of many players in the Indian telecom industry during its gestation period but only a few big stalwarts managed to hold their ground. With more and more companies investing in the data centre business, the industry is experiencing a period of massive growth due to the spurt in digitization.

The colocation data centre business is capital-intensive, and in constant competition with cloud service providers, wholesale providers and managed service providers. In addition to that government regulations that impact data centres at the facility level pose a challenge to this business which is closely related to real estate. Coupled with infrastructural challenges, the expanding universe of data centres would need to be more environment-friendly, scalable and flexible to accommodate the rapid technological advancements in the future.


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