HKCSView: What it takes to build a cloud-ready data centers?

Lewis ChanWith Amazon Web Services (AWS) opening its eighth infrastructure region in Hong Kong next year and Microsoft hosting its Azure East Asia region data center here, Hong Kong is proven to be a key location for many global cloud service providers.

As a highly connected gateway to China, Hong Kong holds great advantage. But to stay competitive in the cloud era, local data center operators should be equipped with new architectural designs and facilities to meet the demand of the next-generation global cloud providers.

Power, cooling and availability

Cloud computing has transformed today’s IT infrastructure. As servers are virtualized and provisioned in a more agile manner, the infrastructure supporting today’s data centers has also changed.

Global cloud service providers on average are requiring 6kW to 10kW of power per server rack, with individual racks consuming as high as 20kW per rack. This is raising the demand for power density significantly higher in the cloud age. Therefore, designing a high power density environment cannot be an afterthought. Retrofitting an old infrastructure with a 3kW per rack design to support this cloud-level power density is the most inefficient, and in many cases unfeasible, way to operate the modern data center.

The cooling infrastructure also needs to be re-designed to support higher airflow and cooling capacity. New architectural design like air containment design and return air plenum design are latest development to bring lower cost and more efficient cooling.

With more cloud providers building availability zones or regions, their power resilience requirements are now satisfied with N+1 redundancy. This means if one data center fails, the workloads will be shifted to another connected data center. This eliminates the need for a 2N UPS, which used to be a common requirement to ensure high availability. Compared with the 2N design, N+1 saves cost and space for data center operators and helps achieve a more cost-effective solution.

Demanding physical space

Most cloud providers developed their optimized servers. These pre-installed server racks are usually extremely heavy, thus data center operators need to provide an environment to meet their specific physical requirements. High ceiling, heavy floor loading, covered loading bays and ramp-less delivery routes with high-capacity freight elevators are some of the examples from a long list of physical requirements.

Low-latency connection is another key element in the public cloud architecture. For many public cloud providers, connectivity is one of the top selection criteria for data center operators. Carrier neutrality, availability of dark fibers in diversified routes, secure private trunks and the presence of subsea cables are key requirements when choosing a data center to host their services.