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The Rise of Data Centres

We live and work in a world that is fuelled by an unprecedented volume of data. Data that requires increasing levels of protection to ensure privacy is not marginalised and business’ data assets are secure. The threat of cyber security attacks is real and growing. According to a report by the Identity Theft Resource Centre (ITRC) in 2016, the number of data security breaches that businesses encountered in the United States of America (USA) grew by a staggering 40 per cent, compared to 2015. The focus on resilient and secure design is more critical than ever before.

 

As the digital age propels forward and protection against cyber security attacks increase, the demand for state-of-the-art data centres proliferates. A data centre is a highly-secure facility that centralises a business’ information technology operations and equipment.

Chris Carr, Technical and Operations Director at Australian Data Centres says, ‘The information and security of billions of human beings is being passed through and stored in data centres on daily basis.’ From this point, data centres gather, store, manage and disseminate Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for future use.

Courtesy of todays’ digital revolution, data centres provide a sophisticated solution for the tsunami of ICT requirements that businesses need.

Research organisation, Frost & Sullivan reported the data centre industry in Australia grew by 18.3 per cent in 2015, and valued at an estimated $1 billion. Looking forward to 2021, considerable growth will tip it to more than $2.055 billion.

In addition to businesses, governments around the world are also seeking impenetrable data centres. In 2016, the USA spent $3.2billion on data centres. In Australia, the Federal, State and Local governments spend for the same period is not yet reported, however there is robust evidence to indicate significant growth.

Wayne Bretherton, Director of Property and Buildings, ANZ at WSP says, ‘Our capability in creating data centres is world-class. Locally, we’ve worked closely with clients on data centres for Macquarie Group, New South Wales Police, CISCO, Credit Suisse and Sydney Water, among others.’

 Image: Macquarie Group Data Centre

WSP provides a broad range of multi-disciplinary services for data centres, including structures, buildings services, Environmental Sustainable Design (ESD) and specialist services (i.e. fire safety engineering; acoustics; security; specialist lighting; and, audio visual, ICT and technology).

Luke De Graaf, Technology Systems Team Leader at WSP in Canberra adds, ‘We are entering a new era in data protection. It’s exciting and will test the industry for pioneering ideas. Over the next five years the role and functionality of data centres will be vital for businesses and governments to succeed. It’s cool to be part of a technology-focused revolution.’

Digital Technology – Cloud and Mobile

Consumers use a myriad of digital devices including cloud and mobile technology, sometimes without even knowing. We communicate with friends, connect with colleagues, do our banking, indulge in retail therapy, share happy memories and/or check our commuting timetables. The growth of digital technology has created ‘digital disruption’, a phrase coined to merit the enormous change in the way people, business and cities network with one another. Put simply, digital technology has grown at a faster rate than current infrastructure has allowed for.

So significant is digital disruption, that it is predicted to transform workforces and businesses in the coming decades. In Australia, the Prime Minister’s ‘Australia Cyber Security Strategy’, released in May 2016, suggests the disruption is likely to create up to $815 billion in economic activity by 2030 across the Asia-Pacific region, which equates to 12 per cent of the region’s total GDP.

According to the Cisco Global Cloud Index in 2015, 70 per cent of all workloads were processed in clouds which are linked to data centres somewhere in the world. That coupled with the estimated eight billion mobile connections made globally in 2017 thus far, creates a substantial reliance on data centres. 

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the overarching term given to the internetworking of all physical devices like smart phones and tablets, city sensors, vehicles and buildings among others into one ‘mega network’. This mega network is expected to reach an estimated 50 billion networked appliances globally by 2020.

Data centres are key to unleashing the full potential of the IoT.

A White Paper prepared by Canberra Data Centre in October 2016 stated, ‘Data centres will play a critical role in housing much of the fabric of the ICT systems/data centres.’ Given the inter-reliance of the IoT on ICT systems/data centres, it is clear they are core to supporting the millions of transactions from remote devices, also to provide the necessary security and to build information that will form the way society functions.

Security

Data is a new currency for governments and businesses, it underpins service delivery and policymaking. Data is being treated as a valuable asset and in some instances a commodity, meaning it must be accurate, stored sensibly, protected from unauthorised access, and available when needed.

Growth of virtual and cloud ICT networks has made people, businesses and governments more vulnerable to sophisticated cyber-attacks. In the private sector, there is evidence of growth in in-house data centres being developed to help combat security breaches. For governments, external data centres are becoming more prevalent.

 Image: Sydney Water Data Centre

Improved Functionality

The digital age has called for the increased functionality of data centres. This is primarily attributed to technological advances around data resilience and energy efficiency.

Data resilience is the ability of a data centre to maintain functionality during unforeseen events like an electricity blackout.

Chris Carr, Technical and Operations Director at Australian Data Centres says, ‘Data centres strive to deliver absolute continuity of services.’ This statement is critical considering we live and work in a 24/7 society.

Traditionally, data centre were an unfriendly energy environment due to the constant use of heating and cooling systems, and the energy needed to power IT hardware. Technological improvements and increased use of renewable energy sources are shifting the dial, and we are now witnessing much more energy efficient facilities.

Our Experience and Services

According to Roneel Singh, Technical Director – Technology Systems ANZ, ’Data centres need to be integrated and designed as holistic solutions. In this new era of increased technology and security requirements, technology consultants must be leaders in helping clients to create resilient critical infrastructure facilities.’

At WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff we understand the importance of a holistic design and have extensive experience in delivering high-quality, innovative data centres for government and private sector clients globally. We collaborate with clients and other stakeholders through all phases of the data centre projects – from understanding the business’ needs, to planning and delivery.

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