Delivering on APAC’s digital potential: the data centre in 2023

In today’s digital world where connected smart devices, virtual reality, analytics and AI have fast become indispensable tools for business success, the total volume of data is growing at a breakneck speed, with latest estimates indicating nearly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created worldwide each day.

Demand for supporting resources have also increased correspondingly, especially in Asia-Pacific where the momentum continues to be driven not only by hyperscalers and infrastructure providers looking to further growth, but also by rising appetites for cloud and data management from the region’s flourishing e-commerce, digital finance, and banking sectors.

Such rapid, cloud-first transformation has also irrevocably changed the relationships organisations have with data storage, applications, and infrastructure. Mission-critical resources have become easily accessible as a result. Hence, it can be taken for granted that applications are ever present on every smartphone and computer.

Consequently, Asia-Pacific’s data centre landscape has experienced a parallel high-growth trajectory, with an estimated valuation of US$13.1 billion for retail and wholesale colocation. While projected to be the world’s fastest growing region for the colocation market, Asia-Pacific remains a fragmented geography with a multitude of political, regulatory, and developmental requirements. For data centre providers and operators across the region, aligning the market demand for cloud and data resources with the specific, disparate needs from each business and vertical can prove to be a daunting challenge.

Doing everything, everywhere at once

For instance, consider all the new applications today that rely on capable, reliable connectivity supported by data centres. There are mobile apps for ordering at the local fast food restaurants, the high-speed robots in a warehouse picking an online order just minutes after the customer completes the “Check Out” page, and the ongoing development of the world’s largest “smart” port in Singapore where remotely navigated vessels will be pilot tested by 2025.

The speed and volume of data being generated, processed, and transported by these applications and countless others will grow exponentially. No downtime can be afforded, no matter if the consequence is a delayed lunch order or compromising the full efficacy of a bustling megaport of the future. Low-latency 5G is unlocking the bandwidth — and just as importantly, the low latency — that many of these new and amazing applications require to work. All that gets piped to data centres, which are increasingly being moved to the edge of the network to shave those last few precious milliseconds off the response time.

Developing infrastructure that is capable of providing robust capacity with near-zero latencies will certainly be top priority for Asia-Pacific’s data centre players in 2023. Not only do they have to ensure delivery of high-speed Internet services or resource-intensive critical applications but ensure their business models stay agile amidst mounting complexities, competition and evolving regulations.

Staying energy efficient, even at the edge

For tomorrow’s data centre environments, whether a small to mid-sized multi-tenant data centre or a vast cloud or hyperscale deployment, the intense, simultaneous pressures of network demand and operational expenses, particularly energy costs, will determine future viability especially with sustainability and climate action regulations being implemented across a wide range of industries.

The bottom line for many priority sectors in 2023, is that modern data centres are expected to increase the efficiency of delivery of services, using fibre and edge-based infrastructure, as well as ML and AI tools. And at the same time, even when operating at the edge, these data centres must provide always-on and efficient operations while meeting new sustainability metrics. Such goals very likely mean looking to reduce energy use per unit of compute power, or having edge data centres located close to areas where there is easier access to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear.

On a more strategic level, moving data centres to the edge of the network can improve energy efficiency on top of latency. For the largest cloud and hyperscale data centres, there are hence opportunities to take advantage of localised power generation in various forms, to both power modern data centres, and if excess power is generated, provide it back to the grid.

Looking ahead into 2023

The rate of technology acceleration does not show any sign of slowing down, and if it is any indication of what lies ahead for Asia-Pacific, it is clear that hyperscale, cloud, and co-location data centres will be the cornerstone that underpins fast, real-time processing and low latency machine-to-machine communications to fuel the region’s data-driven economies.

As more of the world depends on cloud services, and by extension, data centre operations, such standards of pervasive digitisation demonstrate how much efficiency in everyday living and working will likely be driven by near instantaneous connectivity and data processing, and also cost-efficient energy. Amidst such a landscape, the region will need to rise to the challenge of building modern data centres that support scaling up of new capabilities and capacity at the edge, yet still ensuring critical levels of energy efficiency, reliability, and availability, all underpinned by a high-speed fibre infrastructure.