Powering data centres for sustainability


Armand van Niekerk | Product Manager | Eaton Africa | mail me |

South Africa’s data centre market, the largest in Africa with more than 20 co-location centres, is expected to grow to over $3.23 billion, from just $1.71 billion in 2021. These data centres reflect the rapacious demand for data to deliver our information needs, entertainment, and even our very lives.

The data centre is critical in allowing consumers, through intermediaries, access to wide range of online services that are expanding every day. Even more important is the account information each person has with various merchants, banking data and private personal information, like hospital files and so on.

In some cases, the failure of one of these data centres can be catastrophic. Who could forget the day that Facebook experienced a 7-hour outage of all its subsidiaries in October 2021?

Strengthening against vulnerabilities

While users, especially influencers, went into a tailspin, everyone was able to laugh about it afterwards, when all services were restored. This experience, at least, gave people a taste of how dependent we all on data centre, and how vulnerable we become when they malfunction.

During our recent data centre webinar, experts unpacked just how data centres can be strengthened against vulnerabilities, by sharing best practices in data centre transformation as well as how to design sustainable, secure, and commercially successful data centres that successfully straddle the interconnections between data, electrical, and physical domains.

One of the key vulnerabilities faced by the South African data centre market is the country’s constrained energy supply. Unfortunately, South Africa’s current power crisis is expected to persist almost indefinitely, based on current and projected future available capacity, and relative to the fast-growing needs of homes and businesses. This places a huge dampener on the expansion of many key growth sectors.

Data centres, in particular, are one of the larger industrial consumers of electricity and water. These two inputs are needed to power, as well as cool down the centre around-the-clock in cycles.

A secure platform is fostered by more than just analysing folders to detect malware threats. Protecting the integrity of data is just as much ensure by controlling the quality of the power that enters and leaves the secure digital environment in which critical processes are located.

Investing in battery energy storage

An important piece of equipment you will need to invest in is a battery energy storage system, like a Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS).

Simply, when base load power cuts off, the UPS battery is connected to the circuit, it is continuously charged, allowing the user enough time to switch the device off properly (e.g. saving files on a computer) and wait for the power to come back again. Furthermore, pairing a reliable storage (battery) with a solar system as an energy source, especially during off-peak tariff periods of the day, will start to bring down energy cost substantially.

Should there be enough storage (and sunshine), electricity consumption reaches that much haloed status of being “off grid”. Not only does an energy hungry data centre get to cut down energy costs, but they also take advantage of the government’s solar tax rebate for both businesses and households, announced recently to encourage South Africans to go green.

The EnergyAware UPS has already been deployed successfully in several data centres for a class of service called Fast Frequency Response (FFR).

In conclusion

With data centres implementing such services it will allow the grid operator to onboard ever-increasing levels of renewable energy and help to accelerate the transition. This coupled with the energy crisis may also foster a more collaborative relationship between the producers, grid operators and large energy users.

As a large energy user, the data centre industry is very much affected by South Africa’s current electricity crisis. Addressing its impact – on data centre owners and their customers – requires a greater focus on both the transition to renewables, and how existing infrastructure can be utilised to improve efficiency and resiliency, and to help stabilise the grid.

To learn more about how to transform your data centre for a sustainable future, watch our on-demand webinar here.



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