The Need for Higher Data Center Capacity Keeps Rising

The Need for Higher Data Center Capacity Keeps Rising

The need for global expansion and improved more resilient Internet connections have also led to investments in advanced network technologies and new data centers to meet the growing demands of our digital economies, now in a more distributed way, said Viktor Kyuzov, market development director at Digital Realty in an interview with ICTbusiness. According to him, various data center components such as power distribution systems and cooling systems, servers, storage solutions, and security systems are constantly being improved to ensure a more reliable and efficient data center infrastructure.

Q: How have changes in recent years affected the demand and capacity needs of data centers? What are the key components of modern data centers and how are they evolving?

In recent years, the demand and capacity needs of data centers have surged due to factors such as increased budgets for enterprise digital transformation, remote work, cloud computing adoption, and technological advancements such as the various applications of AI. This growth dictates a more robust, scalable, and energy-efficient infrastructure. Additionally, the focus on sustainability heightened cybersecurity threats, and new data privacy regulations have further driven data centers to enhance their efficiency, security, and compliance measures. And importantly, the need for global expansion and improved more resilient internet connectivity has also led to investments in advanced networking technologies and new data centers to meet the growing requirements of our digital economies, now in a more distributed way.

The various components of the data center such as power distribution and cooling systems, servers, storage solutions, and security systems are constantly improving to provide a more reliable and efficient data center infrastructure, but what I find most fascinating is the improvements in high-speed connectivity and software-defined networking, and the growing prevalence of ‘Meet-me-rooms’, which is the place in the data center where the physical connectivity happens. Our customers are increasingly connecting to more digital partners than ever before, finding new ways to expand their digital businesses and geographic coverage, as well as accessing partners on different continents,  resulting in more cross-connects and more densely interconnected data centers.

Q: How do data centers support the digital transformation of business? What are the advantages and challenges of using colocation data centers compared to using cloud service providers?

Data centers are pivotal to an enterprise’s digital transformation as they provide scalable and flexible infrastructure, enabling cloud services, and data management. They offer access to high-speed connectivity providers, edge computing, and robust security measures, ensuring compliance with regulations. With capabilities for business continuity, disaster recovery, and automation, data centers enhance the operational efficiency of a business while driving operational expenditure down. They also support innovation through development environments and emerging technologies, while their geographic diversity and content delivery networks ensure global reach and low-latency access to millions of end users.

Data centers also enable a ‘hybrid cloud’ model, which allows enterprises to combine on-premises data centers (private cloud) with public cloud services, allowing data and applications to be shared between them. This approach offers flexibility and scalability by dynamically allocating resources based on demand, optimizing costs, and enhancing security and compliance by keeping sensitive data on-premises. It improves business continuity and disaster recovery with redundancy and backup solutions and enables customers to deploy their applications in the most suitable environment. So, as such, I wouldn’t think of cloud services as something that competes with data centers. Instead, I would consider them complimentary and part of one model that helps many of our customers navigate through the complexities of their digital transformations.

Q: What are the latest technological innovations being applied in data centers?

An example of a technological innovation being deployed in our data centers is the groundbreaking liquid-to-chip cooling technology, which is the next evolution in high-density deployment support, already available in 170 of our data centers globally. This advancement represents a significant leap forward in addressing the evolving challenges of managing high-density workloads, particularly in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) and data-intensive applications. It further improves Digital Realty’s standardized high-density colocation offering, and introduces direct liquid cooling (DLC), bringing liquid directly to customers' infrastructure, allowing for greater relevance and versatility in meeting emerging AI demand. This approach enables businesses to deploy high-density configurations within a shared environment, close to the cloud, as well as network and AI service providers, while accommodating the distinct needs of individual setups, providing additional flexibility to customers.

Q: What are the key security measures that data centers must implement to protect customer data?

A well-operated data center can provide robust security measures to protect customer data, including strict physical security with controlled access and surveillance through role-based permissions and multi-factor authentication, along with continuous security monitoring and detailed logging. Additional network security services can be available depending on the customer mix in the data center, such as advanced network security using firewalls and intrusion detection systems, and encryption for data at rest and in transit.

Q: What is the growth trend in the demand for data capacity and how ready are the data centers for such growth?

One of the key challenges (or opportunity – depending on the perspective) our industry faces is to ensure we build enough capacity, in the right places, and in time to meet our customers’ growth requirements, as well as to ensure our digital economies have the appropriate levels of diversity and resilience to continue growing. And with the arrival of the numerous applications of AI, we must ensure we grow our footprint following the changing industry requirements.

We tend to acquire enough land to build a data center following a phased construction approach, which means deploying only a portion of the available power and scaling the campus as demand grows, which allows us to spread investments cost-effectively and to ensure we have the flexibility to grow with timelines, which are aligned with these of our customers. This is indeed our approach for our new campus in Zagreb, which will initially double our existing power capabilities in the city but will also provide us with the ability to deploy up to 30 megawatts (MW) of IT load through numerous construction phases in line with the requirements of the local market.

Q: How are data centers adapting to the demands of sustainability and reducing environmental impact? What can customers expect from a data center service provider like Digital Realty?

I take pride in working in the data center industry, and specifically at Digital Realty, for many reasons. One of them is the impact we have on the power efficiency of our digital economies. Our facilities are designed with much lower PUEs (power usage effectiveness) than the typical in-house equipment room managed by a business, so migration of enterprise-owned equipment into our facilities potentially makes the infrastructure more efficient in terms of power consumption, and when you look forward with scalability in mind, this accumulates to a massive improvement in energy efficiency on a local, regional, and global level.

Digital Realty has always had a strong focus on sustainability. Today, we have more than 1.4 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy in our global portfolio. We also match 100% of the energy needed to power our entire European portfolio, as well as our U.S. colocation portfolio, with renewable energy. Right now, we have more than 13 million square feet of sustainable building certifications globally, underscoring our commitment to helping our customers grow and scale, while minimizing our impact on the environment.

Q: How is Digital Realty strengthening its presence in the Mediterranean region, especially in Zagreb, as part of its strategy?

The Mediterranean Sea is strategically located between Europe, Africa, and Asia. Because of its geographic location and growth in both data consumption as well as data generation, the region has attracted new investments in submarine network systems, which are transforming the sea into a major global interconnection and traffic exchange hub, bringing multiple continents together. This means more reliable and resilient internet infrastructure and content distribution for both businesses and individuals, whether they’re at home or using their mobile devices on the go.

Digital Realty aims to help expedite these improvements by partnering with the subsea cable community in addition to the telecom providers with terrestrial networks. We’re providing carrier-neutral facilities where these different connectivity segments can connect so traffic can reach the end users more efficiently than before. To make this happen, Digital Realty has announced several new investments for new data center infrastructure across various markets in the Mediterranean and the broader region, including Madrid, Barcelona, Marseille, Rome, Athens, Heraklion in Crete, Tel Aviv, and of course Zagreb.

Zagreb is set to play a crucial role in this network, enhancing redundancy and resilience for content not only within Croatia but also across central and western Europe. Positioned on a key 'internet highway' connecting Southeast Europe—where new high-capacity cables will be landing—to major hubs like Frankfurt, Zagreb is strategically vital for the region’s digital infrastructure. Zagreb is also an ideal centralized location for content platforms, allowing them to efficiently serve the region directly from the city. This is made possible by the presence of over 50 connectivity providers in our ZAG1 facility, which boasts the highest concentration of networks in Croatia. And to ensure we’re up to ready for the new wave of digitalization of the economy, we’re investing in two new projects – the first one aiming to expand our existing data center in Zagreb with additional power so we can meet the needs of our customers and their growing businesses; and the second project will create a brand new data center campus in Zagreb with enough infrastructure to power the needs of the developing digital economy for the years to come.

Q: Why is carrier neutrality important in data centers, and why is it a key element of Digital Realty's centers? What are the advantages of a large number of available operators in data centers for users, especially in the context of Zagreb?

In short, carrier neutrality means better connectivity. Carrier neutrality is an essential factor to look for when outsourcing your data center needs or seeking interconnection services. It offers the advantage of cost-efficiency by fostering competition, which drives down prices and enhances service quality for both enterprises and end users. By combining multiple internet service providers and network providers, carrier-neutral colocation data centers also help improve redundancy and reliability – ensuring maximum uptime, even if one supplier is experiencing issues. Carrier-neutral facilities also help customers add additional network connections as their businesses grow, which allows them to extend their services further and achieve scalability. Digital Realty provides access to more than 1,300 carriers globally, and in Zagreb specifically, our customers can enjoy access to more than 50 carriers that are physically present in our ZAG1 data center, the highest carrier density in the country. This increases network reliability for our customers and drives connectivity pricing down as a result of competition and multiple options available to them.

Q: What is the ServiceFabric orchestration platform and how does it benefit the users of Digital Realty's data centers in Zagreb? How do orchestration platforms like ServiceFabric help manage complex IT infrastructures? What is the impact of advanced orchestration tools like ServiceFabric on the efficiency and flexibility of operations that use Digital Realty's data centers in Zagreb?

ServiceFabric is our orchestration and connectivity platform, which provides a variety of infrastructure services. The ServiceFabric product family provides a wide range of on-demand interconnection services that can be integrated into existing IT management systems to manage and monitor digital infrastructure.  We call it the “fabric-of-fabrics” because it is one of the industry’s largest open connectivity platforms connecting to other fabrics and ecosystems beyond our own. It is designed to support our customers, partners, and developers as they transition to a more hybrid IT and data-centric architecture. It is a cost-effective solution that prioritizes speed to market, without compromising on performance or latency. ServiceFabric is available in over 130 Digital Realty facilities, including ZAG1, and more than 350 additional third-party data centers, servicing more than 110 cloud regions with access to over 215 network on-ramps.