Feeding the data beast

26 March, 2018
Ciaran Flanagan

Trying to get your head around the amount of data that is produced by modern society can be mind-boggling. Billions of devices and machines are getting connected to the internet, sending and receiving so much data that global traffic is now measured in zettabytes (that is 1021 bytes).

Most of this traffic goes through data centers, which are springing up rapidly around the world to keep pace. Data centers are energy-hungry, devouring huge amounts of electricity, equivalent in consumption to a small town. According to ABB assessments, data center traffic will grow by 400% over the next three years, with worldwide data center energy increasing to 60 gigawatts, or 2.5% of global electricty consumption by 2020.

As data centers grow in size and number, owners and customers have a major incentive to manage their energy use wisely. Energy accounts for up to an estimated 40% of the total cost of ownership and, if centers do not become more efficient and innovative, their growth could be constained by overloaded national power grids.

ABB is a leading partner in the industry’s efficiency drive, and ABB Ability™ digital solutions are bringing down costs and energy-use for customers across the world.

In the Netherlands, for example, Alticom has installed micro data centers in telecommunications towers across the country, using space made available as telco technology switched from analogue to digital, shrinking drastically. The thick walls, cool air at altitude and relative ease of securing the sites make these iconic towers (one of which is the country’s tallest building) ideal for safeguarding data. ABB Ability Data Center Automation allows Alticom to remotely monitor and control the cooling and energy use of all 24 of its towers, making it one of the major elements helping Alticom to run the centers more efficiently.

Following a recent partnership with IT giant Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), we can expect even more technological breakthroughs in the coming years. The two companies are developing an intelligent solution that promises to optimally balance data center workloads and power resources, and cut costs.

Almost all aspects of our lives are becoming digitalized, from hospitals to financial institutions to transport, and the consequences of losing that data (or access to it) are potentially devastating. ABB is helping data center operators to ensure that our data is stored reliably, efficiently and at the minimum cost to the environment.