Technological Trends and Sustainability: Insights From Our Group Chief Technology Officer

Jun 06, 2024
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Daniel Pointon
Group Chief Technology Officer
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Technological Trends and Sustainability: Insights From Our Group Chief Technology Officer


What do you think are some of the biggest trends shaping the data centre industry?


There is no bigger trend impacting the data centre industry than generative AI. AI is projected to contribute up to US$15.7 trillion to the global economy by 20301. As businesses and individuals harness the vast potential of AI, it will bring enormous benefits across diverse domains including scientific research, business productivity, automation, and medical diagnosis.


The growing complexity and power demands of AI workloads will result in profound changes to the underlying data centre infrastructure. The high rack power densities demanded by GPU servers will catalyse a radical rethinking of cooling infrastructure, driving the industry swiftly towards liquid-cooled server equipment. These developments are long overdue and will have beneficial impact on the sustainability of the data centre industry by reducing PUEs to record lows, whilst enabling our customers to achieve greater compute efficiency (Petaflops per Watt) than ever before.


Recognising this need, our technical teams have conducted extensive trials with various liquid cooling systems and have developed new, flexible colocation products designed to support our customers’ GPU roll-outs with cutting-edge technologies. By investing in advanced solutions and enhancing existing infrastructure, we are committed to addressing the explosive growth of AI while prioritising energy efficiency and sustainability.


What challenges do you foresee the sector facing in the next five to ten years?


Without a doubt, climate change and sustainability are the biggest challenges that the entire computing sector, beyond just data centres, need to address within this decade. As the industry experiences continued growth fuelled by our increasing reliance on digital technologies, the crucial question remains: how can we sustainably scale this expansion whilst protecting our critical infrastructure from the physical risks of climate change? With mounting expectations for data centres to operate on renewable energy, grid modernisation efforts necessary in many parts of the world are not advancing quickly enough to support the sector’s contemporary energy requirements, including the integration of renewable energy and energy storage systems.


Whilst a significant challenge, this also presents an opportunity for those bold enough to self-generate their own power. The sector is exploring many new technologies in this space such as green hydrogen power generation and nuclear power with the advent of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). To facilitate deployment in our data centres in Singapore, we have been championing hydrogen fuel cell powered data centres and studying gas turbine re-fuelling with industry partners. While challenges such as costs and infrastructure development still need to be addressed to fully realise the potential of green hydrogen as an energy source, we remain excited by the prospects of green hydrogen as a fuel of the future.


How do you envision data centres of the future to look like?


Data centres of the future will not only be sustainable and scalable, but also intelligent and adaptive to the evolving environment. In the coming years we expect the largest physical transformation of data centres in several decades as engineers re-imagine the building blocks to support gigawatt-scale liquid-cooled data centres, or “AI factories”, as highlighted by NVIDIA founder Jensen Huang.


We will also see increased focus on integrated energy and data centre campuses where mega data centres are located in close proximity to renewable energy, connected through microgrids. We are seeing the sun setting on the old adage that data centres go where the fibre is. Going forward, data centres will be strategically located where renewable power is available.


Our Wustermark data centre campus in Germany, which stands to be amongst the largest green data centre colocation campuses in Europe, will be home to many such green features, including leveraging the highest concentration of onshore renewable energy available in this region of Germany.


Advancements in AI and machine learning (ML) are also set to transform the management of data centres. The integration of AI and ML technologies will enable autonomous management and predictive maintenance, ultimately streamlining operations.


We have invested in AI solutions focusing on optimising the energy consumption of cooling systems, including upstream chiller and distribution systems. With the ability to capture AI-generated insights, we will be able to effectively track and analyse the wealth of data generated by monitoring systems in the data centre, and better facilitate dynamic cooling optimisation to realise the desired outcomes. We also continue to explore AI-based applications to optimise other business processes.




This article was first published in our ESG Report 2023. Read more about our sustainability initiatives by exploring the full report here.