Data centre architecture is a virgin field for architects

Data centre architecture is a virgin field for architects

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State Bank’s data centre project is one of the largest so far with 1,500 racks and meanwhile many other PSU banks and government agencies too have announced their plans to set up data centres

In today’s world the significance of data need not be overemphasized. Data helps you make better decisions. Data collection used to involve manual data collection such as talking with customers face-to-face or taking surveys via phone, mail, or in-person. However, in today’s digital era gathering data to help understand customers and markets is easy. As a result, volume of data collected too is increasing and in fact its storage and analysis is posing a problem.

Importance of data centre

When data has become critical for any business’ success, the need and significance of data centre in today’s business cannot be downplayed. A data centre, in simple words, is a physical facility that organizations use to house their critical applications and data.   Modern data centres are very different than they were in the past but not too distant past. For many, especially for public sector banks, server room itself used to act as data centre. Such server rooms were multi-purpose room  hosting large number of servers and network equipment including virtual system running critical applications. Most of the applications were used to be hosted as primary installations in the server room itself and hence in the point of business criticality, the server room is itself used to be a critical area.

However, today data centre has become a separate physical facility with proper infrastructure like Precision AC system, High end UPS with Generator backup, Fire prevention system, CCTV footage recording system, Fire and Smoke sensor.

Indian entrepreneurs showing interest

As the intensity of competition increases (in any field) demand for data centres too would go up. As the demand for data centre is expected to go up in the coming days many companies have shown interest in exploiting this opportunity. For example, in July 2019, the Adani group said it would invest up to Rs 70,000 crore to set up solar powered data parks in Andhra Pradesh. Real estate major Hiranandani Group has plans to invest Rs 14,000 crore in data centres. Reliance Industries is partnering with Microsoft to provide cloud services to small and medium enterprises. ST Telemedia Global Data Centres (STT GDC), which presently has a capacity of 70 MW spread over 2.14 million square feet, has plans to grow to 200 MW over 4 million sq ft, within three years.

Concept of physical architecture of data centre

The concept of data centre is relatively a new concept and its physical architecture is slightly tricky thing. As you all know the data centre is home to the computational power, storage, and applications necessary to support an enterprise business. The data centre infrastructure is central to the IT architecture, from which all content is sourced or passes through. Proper planning of the data centre infrastructure design is critical, and performance, resiliency, and scalability need to be carefully considered.

Another important aspect of the data centre design is flexibility in quickly deploying and supporting new services. Designing a flexible architecture that has the ability to support new applications in a short time frame can result in a significant competitive advantage. Such a design requires solid initial planning and thoughtful consideration in the areas of port density, access layer uplink bandwidth, true server capacity, and oversubscription, to name just a few.

The data centre network design is based on a proven layered approach, which has been tested and improved over the past several years in some of the largest data centre implementations in the world. The layered approach is the basic foundation of the data centre design that seeks to improve scalability, performance, flexibility, resiliency, and maintenance.

Being a new concept, in India data centre physical architecture is a virgin field. As such local architects have limited exposure to data centre architecture and most of the tenders issued initially requiring physical data centre architects had to change eligibility criteria of potential architects substantially to suit the local talents.

SBI’s tender a test case

Perhaps response to Stat Bank of India’s tender for data centre is a test case. SBI is setting up 1,500 racks data centre at an estimated cost of Rs 1,000 crore at Hinjewadi, Pune in Maharashtra.

For many potential participants eligibility criteria asked by SBI found to be little stringent. The Bank was initially insisting on past experience  of completing similar projects of particular size defined in terms of project cost and later on it corrected itself by defining the size of past projects in terms of number of racks. Its a sort of complete reversal from the line of thinking the Bank had initially. Lack of experience from the side of applicants too was visible as they were requesting Bank to allow for tie up with foreign firms.  To overcome this problem, the Bank introduced the concept of Lead Consultant.

Many data centre projects coming up

State Bank’s data centre project is one of the largest so far with 1,500 racks and meanwhile many other PSU banks and government agencies too have announced their plans to set up data centres. UCO Bank is setting up a data centre in Kolkata with 25 racks. Union Bank is setting up new Green Data Centre on the 6th floor of its Information Technology office at Powai in Mumbai. National Informatics Centre Services Incorporated (NICSI) is replacing obsolete or damaged equipment and procuring new equipment required for functioning of Data Centre.

Thus, in the coming years there will be flood of such new data centre both government and private agencies and the architects who have the expertise in the field are likely keep themselves occupied because of this unexplored territory.

A move towards a connected, inclusive digital economy means more and more data is being generated across platforms such as Cloud and social media as well as accessed by more people using mobile technology. All this data needs to be stored, managed and disseminated to users via public and private cloud, making data centres a key pillar in digital transformation. In other words, data centre architecture can be a new growth opportunity for the architects in India.