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As consumers demand faster access to more and more data, the number of data centres in Ireland – and their size – is rapidly increasing.
But are we equipped to supply massive amounts of energy to data centres? PM Group experts, Pat Swords and Colm O’Mahony report in Engineers' Journal.
As consumers demand faster access to more and more data, the number of data centres – and their size – is rapidly increasing. But are we equipped to supply massive amounts of energy to data centres? PM Group experts, Pat Swords and Colm O’Mahony report in the Engineers Journal.
Marty McFly had his own unique approach to problem solving in the Back to the Future films, but there is, in practical terms, an awful lot of merit in applying what has successfully worked in the past to the somewhat analogous challenges we might face in the future.
Problem solving is by definition: ‘the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritising and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.’ What, then, is the problem with data centres?
After all, Ireland, like other regions with a temperate climate and a favourable environment for industrial development, has been building lots of them; they are a mature technology so surely there is no problem to solve?
The problem is electrical energy, particularly, as both the number of data centres and their size rapidly increases. Until there is a radical breakthrough in how computer processors work or the public completely changes its rapidly growing affinity for electronic data, this problem is not going to go away.
So, what are the options? Well the ‘zero option’ has always to be considered: do not build them or have them built elsewhere. With regard to the latter, while Europe has unfortunately been exporting its heavy process industry to other countries with lower energy costs, effective internet commerce is about the speed at which the website or other data loads.
This can be influenced by a number of factors, but the travel distance between the server and user is obviously critical. Europe is a big consumer market for data, so data centres will inevitably be built there.