Clients Willing To Pay A Premium For Green Data Centres- Moiz Vaswadawala, NTT

Highlights :

NTT, with over two decades of experience and 16 operational data centers across India, has been recognized by 451 Research as the market leader in the data center ecosystem. As part of NTT DATA, a USD 30 billion IT services provider, NTT Ltd. serves 65% of the Fortune Global 500 and more than 75% of the Fortune Global 100.

Clients Willing To Pay A Premium For Green Data Centres- Moiz Vaswadawala, NTT Moiz Vaswadawala, Vice President - Risk Management and Sustainability

Moiz Vaswadawala, Vice President, Risk management and Sustainability at NTT Global Data Centers & Cloud Infrastructure India Pvt Ltd, the leading data center provider in India currently, talks about the push towards greener, more sustainable data centres. Excerpts from the interview:

What is a data centre’s total energy footprint like, in terms of power, water, and other consumables? What is the typical energy consumption of a data centre, and where does most of this go actually?

Moiz Vaswadawala: A data center’s energy footprint primarily derives from powering and cooling its hardware, including servers and networking equipment. IT equipment accounts for approximately 40%-60% of energy usage, cooling consumes 30%-50%, infrastructure overheads take up 10%-20%, and networking has a smaller impact. Consumption varies: smaller centers might use a few hundred kW, while large ones can exceed hundreds of MW. Aside from energy, water and maintenance materials are also consumed. To boost efficiency and reduce environmental impact, many data centers now employ energy-efficient hardware, optimized cooling systems, and renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Balancing growing digital demand with sustainability remains a key challenge that most data center players are now working towards addressing.

We understand data centres necessarily have to build in strong redundancies planning too, when it comes to power. How is that done typically?

Moiz Vaswadawala: Creating robust redundancies within data centers is imperative to ensure seamless operations and averting potential downtime, especially during power failures or unforeseen emergencies. Redundancy planning involves setting up backup systems and resources in case the primary systems stumble. Data centers also have backup generators in case the utility grid wavers. Apart from this, the UPS help in bridging the gap between utility power disruptions and generator kickstarts, which further acts as a shield against interruptions to critical operations.

However, the impact of redundancy is not limited to the power source. Data centers often adopt dual power feeds – a strategic arrangement that enables IT equipment to connect to different power distribution pathways. The Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) device detects power blips and ensures a seamless switch from utility power to backup systems like generators or UPS. This helps in reducing any potential downtime.

Overall, the practicality of redundancies is tested through periodic evaluations of backup systems and failover procedures. By embracing these redundancy strategies, data centers can improve their operational reliability, avoid potential failures, and maintain efficiency.

What are the investments required in a typical data centre?

Moiz Vaswadawala: The investments in a data center include those related to a suitable facility or land, constructing. Investments are also needed for designing the physical infrastructure with cooling, power distribution, and backup systems, among other things. Energy efficiency measures, such as renewable energy integration and efficient equipment selection, are also part of the investment. Connectivity and networking infrastructure, compliance costs, skilled personnel recruitment, ongoing operational expenses for utilities and maintenance, and monitoring tools contribute to the overall investment. The investment scale varies depending on factors like the facility’s size, location, redundancy requirements, technology choices, and growth projections.

What are NTT’s plans to make its data centers greener?

Moiz Vaswadawala: As India’s leading data center service provider (as per 451 Research), NTT is committed to making the data center space green. NTT currently has 16 operational data centers, and more are in different stages of construction, and we are focusing on building large scale data center campuses in major hubs alongside setting up smaller Edge data centers in Tier-II, and Tier-III cities across the country in the years ahead. Our sustainability ambition is built on 3 pillars – Connected planet, Connected economy and Connected communities. This includes achieving Net-zero emissions across our operations by 2030, and across our value chain by 2040 and 100% renewable energy in our data centers by 2030.To achieve this objective, we have been investing heavily in renewable energy generation plants and inducting cutting-edge energy-efficient equipment as well as green building designs in our new data centers.

Our latest initiative towards this end is the break through deployments of Liquid Immersion Cooling (LIC) and Direct Contact Liquid Cooling (DCLC)technologies. We recently marked our first-such deployment and APAC’s largest, at our Navi Mumbai Data Center. IGBC (Indian Green building Certified) certified buildings, usage of renewable energy, and deployment of cutting-edge energy efficient equipment such as the liquid immersion cooling technology to replace the conventional chillers are some other measures that are being taken. In fact, NTT is the first company in India to have introduced these technologies and they will become the future norm for data center development in the country. Within the next ten years, this will lead to zero emissions from NTT DCs, and other players are also expected to take similar steps.

What are the areas where more sustainable solutions are the toughest to implement, as of now, in the context of data centres?

Moiz Vaswadawala: Implementing more sustainable solutions in data centers can be particularly challenging in areas related to cooling and renewable energy integration. Cooling systems are often energy-intensive and essential to prevent overheating of IT equipment, making it difficult to significantly reduce their environmental impact without compromising performance. Integrating renewable energy sources like solar and wind power can be challenging due to the consistent energy demands of data centers and the need for reliable power supply. Balancing energy efficiency and performance while ensuring uninterrupted operations remains a complex task in these areas. However, at NTT, we have already taken steps to implement sustainable solutions despite the said challenges, including powering our data centers on renewable energy and using technologies like liquid immersion cooling. We already have a 62.5-MW solar energy plant commissioned and operational in Solapur, Maharashtra (operational) with additional capacity expansion of 50 MW wind energy in the pipeline. There is also a 20-MW wind energy plant in Karnataka (operational) with plans to enhance the power generation capacity to 58.5 MU.

Do you see the recent Green Open Access Rules supporting a faster drive towards using renewable energy by data centres?

Moiz Vaswadawala: In my view, integrating renewable energy sources into data centers comes with challenges around infrastructure, investments, regulations, and the availability of clean energy. If Green Open Access rules were to offer incentives, regulatory support, or streamlined procedures for data centers to access renewable energy, they might serve as a catalyst for more data centers to embrace eco-friendly power sources. This potential shift could gel with the global endeavours to combat climate change and reduce our reliance on finite resources. However, the true impact of such rules will depend on the details of the policies, the dedication of data center operators to adopt sustainable practices, and the broader energy landscape within the regions where these data centers are situated.

Do your clients worry/value a greener data centre? Would they pay a premium for it?

Moiz Vaswadawala: There is a growing demand for greener data centers. Clients value data centers that prioritize energy efficiency, use renewable energy sources, and minimize their carbon footprint. They are willing to pay a premium as is evident by the fact that green data centers make use of high-end technology such as liquid immersion cooling. However, the decision also often depends on factors such as the client’s industry, size, budget, and overall commitment to sustainability.

As a global player, are data centres in India aligned to your best practices worldwide, or are there challenges to implementing some of those in India?

Moiz Vaswadawala: Data centres in India have made strides towards aligning with global sustainability best practices adhering to international standards and certifications for environmental sustainability. All NTT datacentres are certified in energy management systems (ISO 50001) and in process to get certified in Environment management systems (ISO 14001).All our data centres in India have adopted energy-efficient technologies and have state of the art BMS system to visualize performance of all equipment. We are following global best practices such as hot/cold aisle containment and efficient cooling solutions are being adopted to reduce energy consumption. We also incorporating renewable energy sources into our energy mix, leveraging solar and wind power potential.

There are some challenges which we are facing due to changing regulatory environment especially in field of renewable energy, but India is evolving, and efforts are being made to overcome these obstacles. As sustainability is a global priority for NTT India, we are continuing aligning with global best practices and finding innovative solutions to address local challenges.

What are the key factors you look at when deciding on the location of a data centre?

Moiz Vaswadawala: The location of data centers can impact efficiency, security, costs, and client satisfaction levels. Some key factors to consider when deciding on the location include connectivity, favouring robust network access for improved service quality. Power reliability is essential, as are stable grids and backup solutions like generators to prevent downtime. It is important to minimize climate risks and align with regulations, safeguarding against disruptions and legal issues. Security is another major factor apart from cost-effectiveness. By ensuring that the data center is located near to the users, it is possible to enhance service quality.

What happened to the move to locate data centers in arctic/cold regions to conserve energy use and footprint?

Moiz Vaswadawala: While the concept of arctic data centers offers exciting prospects for energy efficiency, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The decision depends on a combination of factors, including energy costs, available infrastructure, sustainability goals, and risk assessment. The viability of arctic data centers varies from case to case and should be thoroughly evaluated before implementation.

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