Views from our Experts – Mission Critical Facilities & Defence

In this expert interview we talk with Craig Gianoli, NDY’s Mission Critical Market Sector Leader, who is based in our Sydney office about designing Mission Critical facilities that accommodate current and future needs while offering innovative solutions that up the ante within the sector.

What are some of the major considerations and complexities facing data centre projects today?

Modern day data centres or mission critical facilities have seen a growth in energy density due to growing Artificial Intelligence capabilities. We’re designing projects with a high power density, which requires a rethink of power distribution and pushes the limits of air-cooled solutions. In larger facilities, a major focus is on modularisation of designs that allow for scale out as demand grows without putting information technology (IT) loads at risk during these expansions. With this growth in scale, getting the site services infrastructure right is absolutely critical to achieving a successful outcome.

What we’re seeing in the Defence sector is even bigger densities of power usage, as the military has far greater requirements in order to keep up with operational needs. A normal project might have elements of storage and some processing, but a Defence project requires far more processing intensive tasks, which chew up more power. NDY’s designs work to not only accommodate these needs but offer solutions that innovate and up the ante within the sector.

On recent data centre projects, what innovations have excited you the most?

There are always fresh ideas on new data centre projects. As an electrical engineer, the use of Isolated Parallel Bus (IP-Bus) technology to achieve Tier IV fault tolerance with minimal duplication in uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and generator plant systems is exciting as it enables us to improve both asset utilisation and energy efficiency outcomes. As space is often limited, the shift to lithium ion or lithium polymer batteries for UPS systems has been a game changer, drastically reducing the spatial footprint and structural requirements for these systems.

What role does sustainability play in current data centre design?

Data Centre Usage is estimated to make up approximately 4% of Australian energy consumption, so it’s not surprising that, with increasing power density within data centres and rising energy costs, energy costs are now the single biggest operating cost faced by mission critical providers. As a result, over the past decade, plant solutions have been designed to operate more efficiently throughout the load range. Our recent data centre designs have included the use of air-side free cooling, water side economisers combined with higher chilled water supply temperatures, and the use of high efficiency UPS technologies to offer solutions with a greater sustainability focus.

NABERS for data centres is gaining traction in Australia. NABERS energy ratings for data centers is a set of performance metrics tools used in Australia to evaluate the energy efficiency and

environmental impact of networked computer facilities. NDY is proud to have worked with major provider NEXTDC to achieve the first 5 Star NABERS Energy ratings in Australia on two of their facilities. However, LEED for Data Centres has not taken off within the Asia-Pacific region, with only three facilities certified to date.

How do clients wisely invest in critical infrastructure like data centres when the technology we use is evolving so quickly?

While IT technology is continually changing, the rate of change for the infrastructure is much slower and far more incremental. Good data centre design allows for staged progression of infrastructure rollout to allow new electrical and thermal capacity to be brought online without disruption to the data centre environment. This allows investment in plant to be deferred until later in the data centre lifecycle and reduces both maintenance overheads and capital expenditure on otherwise stranded assets, allowing the operator to procure the most efficient plant possible.

What changes have you seen in mission critical and data centre operations, and what innovations are on the horizon?

Amongst the most obvious changes, the scale of facilities has increased exponentially, from 10-20MW to 100MW. Hyperscalers—data centre providers such as Microsoft and Google that operate a new generation of large facilities in the range of 80MW to 150MW—are also creating change by pushing the thermal envelope wider in pursuit of energy savings.

On the horizon are a range of innovations, including a growth in edge computing driven by latency requirements (edge computing brings computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed to improve response times – or reduce latency – and save bandwidth). The new 5G wireless technology for mobile networks will offer faster service than its 4G predecessor, and further growth is also occurring in power density, direct liquid cooling, and analytics driven control systems where the infrastructure responds more efficiently to suit the IT load. There is a lot coming our way, and we are ready for it.

About our Expert

Craig Gianoli

Mission Critical Market Sector Leader, Sydney

Craig is the Sydney based Market Sector Lead for Mission Critical services at Norman Disney & Young, A Tetra Tech Company (NDY). He supports the business with his technical expertise in High Voltage networks, fault tolerant and renewable energy systems and microgrids.

Craig joined NDY in 2012 from a networks utility business where he gathered a broad range of design and management experience in the power industry. He has held several NDY leadership roles including Perth Electrical Section Manager and National Power Engineering Manager.

Since childhood, Craig has explored his passion for understanding how things work. Building on an avid interest in computers and technology, Craig holds degrees in both computer sciences and engineering. He now combines both loves via a focus on data centres, which require the highest level of detail from concept to delivery, and understands that clients come to NDY for expertise, capability and track record in the sector.

Craig has been designing data centre facilities for over a decade, working on dozens of sites ranging from new builds to complex upgrades and voltage conversions on live data centres including Defence facilities.

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