The future of data centre design

As he attends Datacloud Global Congress in Monaco, we interviewed Hyphen’s data centre specialist, Peter Agnew about his experience and the future of data centre design.

What are the biggest changes in data centre design that you’ve seen in recent years?

The biggest change is the scale of the data centres we’re working on – Rapidly increasing demand is driving the design of ever-larger hyperscale facilities, with higher power densities. Our clients, who have traditionally been conservative in providing empty space, are now building in larger phases to keep up with demand. We’re also seeing mergers and new entrants into the European market bringing the financial backing needed to deliver these types of projects. A few years ago, the largest data centre projects we had worked on were 10-12 MW warehouse conversions. Today we’re delivering several campus projects where each building can deliver around 30 MW of power to the servers inside.  To put that into context, 1 MW can power around 1,000 homes, so some of these projects have the potential to draw the same amount of power as a large town. Data halls are growing too and we’re now designing individual halls around 6,000sqm in size, each capable of housing two jumbo jets inside.

What can we expect to see moving forward?

At the same time as developing hyperscale, the industry is also moving towards smaller, “Edge” data centres – bringing data (streaming YouTube or Netflix, for example) closer to the populations who produce and consume it. Businesses will continue to move their critical applications and data storage into the cloud, to reduce costs and outsource the maintenance of their systems. PC hardware will start to be virtualised, allowing businesses to operate basic hardware – renting machines (running in the cloud) to do the number crunching. The gaming industry is already showing signs of moving this way with cloud-based console gaming. The growth of 5G, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things), including smart devices and self-driving cars, will require vastly more data storage and processing – preferably close to the consumers.

We’re also seeing the effects of nationalism manifesting in the technology sector, as countries are starting to demand that their citizens’ data is held locally (creating their own rules for access to the internet).

What challenges have you faced?

At Hyphen, we work for demanding clients, some of the biggest names in the industry, who always challenge us to think outside the box to meet their requirements.  This could be anything from a 6m deep basement to reduce above-ground building volume in Frankfurt, to a six-storey energy centre building, 9m wide, constructed between office buildings in London.

We also need to consider changing technology and futureproofing – Over the years we’ve seen technologies change and experienced how building design has needed to adapt to suit.  What’s considered state-of-the-art at the beginning of a project, may be obsolete by the time the building is fully fitted-out.

Innovation is constant and technology is changing rapidly, albeit on the M&E side more than in construction. It is important that we keep up with emerging technologies so we can support our engineering partners and understand how to accommodate their designs in the building.

As architects, we are also often the conduit between the engineering and the wider world, presenting designs to planning authorities and to the public, so it’s important to understand the principles of the design, and innovative developments to be able to effectively communicate them to a non-technical audience.

Whatever the challenge, we’ll embrace it, and whatever the future brings, the need for a flexible and collaborative approach (so the design comes together as a whole) will always be vital to any successful data centre project.

Keywords

  • data centre
  • data centre design
  • data cloud
  • design
  • hyperscale

Keywords

  • data centre
  • data centre design
  • data cloud
  • design
  • hyperscale