Publication : TCBU Editorial

India’s data centre industry is poised for explosive growth in a country embracing rapid digitalisation, driven by innovation, sustainability, and a mission to become a global data hub. As India marches toward an era of technological advancement, data centres are not just evolving; they are leading the way, setting a new standard for efficiency, sustainability, and global competitiveness.

A remarkable transformation is underway in the heart of India’s bustling tech landscape. The data centre industry, often hidden behind the scenes, is emerging as a critical player in the nation’s journey toward technological dominance. With the rapid growth of infrastructure and the economy, the industry is experiencing an exponential surge. India’s insatiable appetite for data and digital services has created a pressing need for data centres. By the end of 2022, there were a staggering 700 million active internet users in the country, showcasing the immense demand. Reports project the addition of 4900-5000 megawatts of data centre capacity in the next six years, driven by this insatiable demand.

Data centre growth

The growth of the digital economy, cloud computing, and data-intensive services further fuels this expansion. India’s government also promotes the country as a global data centre hub. However, with great growth comes great responsibility. The industry faces a critical challenge: ensuring uninterrupted operations and mitigating the risk of unplanned downtime. To overcome this challenge, data centre experts are pioneering innovative solutions. They focus on maintaining precise environmental conditions within data centre facilities, a critical aspect of their resilience. Sustainable cooling solutions are at the forefront of this effort. Liquid cooling, in particular, is gaining traction for its efficiency and reduced carbon footprint.

Data centre designers adopt modular and scalable designs to improve efficiency and eliminate wasted space. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning are being used to optimise cooling systems, predict demand, and prevent outages, ushering in an era of intelligent data centres.

Several factors are contributing to the rapid growth of India’s digital economy, including the increasing demand for cloud computing and data-intensive services. The government is also actively working to establish India as a global data centre hub. Data centres are crucial for maintaining uninterrupted operations, and unplanned downtime can result in significant maintenance costs. Therefore, ensuring continuous and reliable performance is a top priority. Achieving this involves maintaining precise environmental conditions within data centre facilities, prompting the industry to explore innovative solutions to create resilient infrastructure supporting its growth.

Sustainable cooling solutions are advancing, promising enhanced efficiency for HVAC systems. Raghuveer Singh, Senior Director of Colo/Cloud Thermal Solutions at Vertiv, foresees a twofold increase in India’s megawatt consumption within 2 to 3 years. Given this projection, there is a pressing need to prioritise approaches that aim for net-zero energy consumption and carbon neutrality.

Data centres are evolving to meet expanding demands

Designers are increasingly adopting modular and scalable plans, simplifying capacity adjustments and reducing unused space to enhance efficiency. Another increasingly reliable trend is the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). These technologies optimise data centres by improving cooling systems, predicting demand, and preventing service disruptions.

Maintaining their integrity is paramount, given data centres’ critical role in mission-critical endeavours. High-quality air solutions are crucial in ensuring data centre efficiency. Data centres play a pivotal role in today’s digital landscape, serving as the backbone of the information age. However, as these data centres house many servers and equipment, they generate a substantial amount of heat, which can harm their efficiency and reliability. To address this challenge, data centre operators are constantly innovating and adopting various cooling solutions to dissipate heat effectively.

Kishor Patil, Country Head of Trane HVAC Business India & SAARC Markets at Trane Technologies, emphasises the importance of using highly reliable mission-critical cooling equipment to maintain server uptime. Timely maintenance also significantly enhances the reliability and efficiency of cooling systems, helping to reduce or eliminate unscheduled downtime.

Innovative cooling alternatives

Dr. Vijay Chaudhry, President at Bry-Air, highlights that the industry embraces innovation to ensure data centres operate at their best. Recognising the critical role of effective data management in driving technological advancement, industry players are tirelessly working to manage the heat generated by data centres. One key approach involves creating high pressure within the room to maintain safe temperature levels. The latest technological advancements have led to innovative cooling solutions explicitly tailored for data centres, with liquid cooling at the forefront. Liquid cooling offers several advantages. It is easy to maintain, scalable, and cost-effective. Furthermore, the energy used in liquid cooling can be recycled to heat buildings or water, significantly reducing the carbon footprint compared to traditional air conditioning methods.

Data centres have a range of cooling options to choose from. In cases where external factors like ambient pollution and varying humidity can pose challenges or physical constraints prevent traditional air economisers, split system cooling is an ideal solution. These systems are typically compact and offer installation flexibility, especially for multi-story facilities. They incorporate thermosyphon technology to transport data centre heat via the evaporation and condensation of refrigerant.

Indirect evaporative cooling (IEC) is a suitable solution for those requiring tight control over temperature and humidity. It uses outdoor air to reject heat, ensuring that outdoor air never enters the process or white space. An air-to-air heat exchanger transfers data centre heat to a separate outdoor airstream. Direct evaporative cooling is often the most energy-efficient method for cooling data centres. The global market for liquid cooling in data centres was valued at $2.6 billion in 2023. It is anticipated to expand significantly, with a CAGR of 24.4 percent over the next five years. This growth is driven by the increasing demand for efficient and space-saving cooling solutions, primarily due to the growth of edge computing and the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Umesh Kale, Business Unit Manager-HCT at Munters India Humidity Control, underscores the significance of cooling solutions in data centres. He notes that the market for these solutions is substantial and expected to grow as data centres seek more efficient and sustainable ways to manage the heat generated by increasingly powerful computing equipment. The data centres are continually evolving to address the challenges of heat generation. Innovative cooling solutions, including liquid cooling and various alternatives, are at the forefront of this transformation. As the demand for efficient and sustainable cooling options continues to rise, data centre operators must carefully evaluate the costs and benefits to ensure optimal performance while minimising their environmental footprint. These advancements are poised to reshape the landscape of data centre cooling, providing efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for the digital age.

Automation and sustainable practices

Integration of the IoT and automation into HVAC systems has revolutionised energy management. Raghuveer notes that this integration and machine learning have significantly improved HVAC operational efficiency, resulting in reduced energy consumption and cost savings. Businesses can remotely manage their equipment, optimise system operation, and improve overall performance, minimising repair expenses and downtime.

Data centres do more than consume energy; they are also notable contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for approximately 1.5 to 2 percent of the world’s total electricity consumption. In recognition, the industry is increasingly adopting sustainable practices to reduce its environmental impact. Sustainable approaches are becoming the standard as the world grapples with the challenges of climate change. Given the substantial energy requirements of data centres, it is crucial to prioritise decarbonisation efforts. With growing concerns about environmental harm, the industry is actively incorporating sustainable methods into its operations. In acknowledgement of the significant energy demands of data centres, the sector is committed to minimising the carbon footprint associated with these facilities.

As India’s data centre market is poised for a six-fold increase in the next six years, the industry’s role in shaping the nation’s economic landscape is undeniable. Data centre operators leverage data and analytics for predictive maintenance, and modern data centres are equipped with end-to-end monitoring and facility automation. The future holds even greater promise, with the adoption of AI and ML algorithms in software and hardware, enhanced by IoT technologies, to achieve energy optimisation. Another innovative approach is capitalising on higher water and air temperatures for energy savings.

India’s data centre operators are pioneering sustainability, embracing renewable energy sources, energy-efficient cooling systems, modular designs, and edge computing technologies. Umesh believes that these innovations make India a sustainable and cost-effective destination for data centres and position the country as a global leader in the data centre market. In this age of rapid technological advancement, India’s data centre industry is not just keeping pace; it’s blazing a trail toward a sustainable and technologically prosperous future.

Raghuveer Singh, Senior Director of Colo/Cloud Thermal Solutions, Vertiv.

“There is a pressing need to prioritise approaches that aim for net-zero energy consumption and carbon neutrality.”

Umesh Kale, Business Unit Manager-HCT at Munters India Humidity Control Pvt. Ltd.

“The market for cooling solutions is substantial as data centres seek sustainable ways to manage the heat generated by computing equipment.”

Dr. Vijay Chaudhry, President, Bry-Air.

“Recognising the pivotal role of data management in driving technological advancement, the industry is actively confronting the task of efficiently managing the heat produced by data centres.”

Kishor Patil, Country Head of Trane HVAC Business India & SAARC Markets, Trane Technologies.
“Timely maintenance plays a significant role in enhancing the efficiency of cooling systems, helping to reduce or eliminate unscheduled downtime.”

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