Digital Realty: The Connected Data Hubs for Asia Pacific

Digital Realty: The Connected Data Hubs for Asia Pacific

Peter Adcock, Digital Realty’s APAC vice-president, design and construction, talks about the company’s growth plans in APAC, and why he won’t be t...

Digital Realty is the world's largest full-scale data centre provider offering colocation, interconnection and cloud services.

It has more than 150 data centres in 11 countries, servicing more than 2,300 companies of all sizes in 33 global markets across its secure, network-rich portfolio of buildings located throughout Asia Pacific, North America and Europe. Equating to more than 26mn sq ft of Data Centre space across the world.

For more than nine years, the business has delivered a portfolio of data centre solutions – including colocation, Cloud services, business ecosystems, Turn-Key Flex (TKF), and powered base buildings (PBB) – with a record of 99.999% uptime, unmatched by any other data centre provider.

In October, Digital Realty announced it has entered into a 50/50 joint venture with Mitsubishi Corporation to provide data centre solutions in Japan.

The joint venture, named MC Digital Realty, will benefit from Mitsubishi’s local enterprise expertise and established data centre presence in Tokyo, as well as Digital Realty's global client base and industry-leading track record of data centre operational excellence. 

Digital Realty will contribute its recently completed data centre development project in Osaka, while Mitsubishi will contribute two existing data centre facilities in the western Tokyo suburb of Mitaka.

Collectively valued at approximately 40bn Japanese Yen – or approximately $350mn – the three assets will build a meaningful platform to serve the broader Japanese market, with the potential to significantly expand its scope over the next several years. 

And in September, Digital Realty, which turns over $2.7bn annually, announced the commencement of new data centre SYD11 – its fifth in Australia – which is being built in Erskine Park in Western Sydney.

The facility will be adjacent to the company’s existing SYD10 facility, and this signifies huge expansion in the AUS market, adding to the other three Australian facilities in Digital Realty’s Australian portfolio – SYD 12 in North Ryde, and the two data centres in Melbourne, MEL10 and MEL11.

Once operational, SYD11, located across 16,360 sqm, will be a 14MW facility and the build, which will employ around 500 contractors, is expected to take 12 months. 

APAC vice-president, design and construction, Peter Adcock says Sydney – which has the biggest tech start-up ecosystem in Australia – is crucial to the Digital Realty’s ambitions in Asia-Pacific. It also has award-winning sites in Singapore, Hong Kong and Osaka.

“We've got the potential to pretty much double our APAC footprint in three to five years,” he says. “Australia – and Sydney particularly – is an ideal location to be a hub. There's a lot of demand from a whole range of companies that want to establish a presence and provide a low latency service in the country in Australia.

“Sydney's ideally placed on the Eastern Seaboard, with the fibre optic backbone that runs up through Brisbane and Queensland, and down to Canberra and Melbourne. It picks up a large part of the Australian population, and is sitting on submarine fibre cables too.”

The company is currently working on its latest state-of-the-art, trademarked 4.0 Architecture POD (performance optimised data centres) design, and will install it at the new facility. Its unique trademark has been developed from the knowledge gleaned through the construction of more than $2.5bn worth of data centres globally, and uses a modular methodology to build-out raised floor data centre space using standard power and cooling building blocks for cost-effectiveness, design flexibility and energy efficiency.

It will boast the same cooling solution that's being adopted at its larger scale facilities in the US, which have a pumped refrigerate economiser cycle on it as well, ensuring excellent annualised Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) without any water usage, which can be quite excessive in large data centres.

“We've got the lithium ion battery technology as well that we're adopting,” Adcock reveals, “which gives a better performance than traditional lead acid. And on the monitoring side, we've got the data centre information management (DCM) product, which is a digital proprietary. It gives the team in the US head office global visibility of the whole portfolio around the world.

“That works off the same model database as the BMS system which is a Schneider Struxuware Building Operation (SBO), Power Monitoring Expert (PME) unit. This means we can log in and find the utilisation of all our properties around the world in different locations, giving us the information to manage and fine tune operation and performance.”

The significant investment into SYD 11 and the Asia Pacific construction plan over the last 18 months stemmed from the Digital Osaka 1 Data Centre in Japan – its first facility in the country, which provides 7.6MW of IT capacity. 

A thriving financial and colocation centre, Osaka is the Silicon Valley of Japan. A gateway for international exchanges, it houses a population of more than 20mn people and has a GDP of approximately 80trn yen.

“The Digital Osaka 1 Data Centre was the big one that really got the attention of the guys back in the US,” adds Adcock. “That was 95% sold before it was opened. It started out as an easy stepping stone for a lot of the American companies, working with an S&P 500 company they know, and provided a product they're familiar with because it’s consistent around the world, barring any legislative or code differences.”

Osaka is a melting pot of many industrial fields, a broad cross-section of businesses, universities and tech development. Two cloud social media companies immediately snapped up the space, and in May, Digital Realty announced it is building Digital Osaka 2 ­Data Centre – which is four times the size of Osaka 1 – alongside it.

It’s in the final stages of design and will launch next year. The two Osaka centres will create a Connected Data Centre Campus, which SYD 10 and SYD 11 have been modelled on.

“We always planned to expand in Sydney,” Adcock continues. “We also originally purchased a block of land next door to SYD 10, and it’s the next iteration of design – where SYD 10 is seven or eight megawatts, SYD 11 will be up to 14.

“That’s driven by the increased density of the computer equipment that's going on the white space, so that's gone from a four to five kilowatt per cabinet average up to six, seven, eight – and in Japan we got some of that up to 12 to 15, so demand is driving the density increases as well, which is where we’ve had to become a lot more diligent on the airflow management.”

Earlier this year, Digital Realty CFO for APAC, Krupal Raval, revealed many of its global top-tier clients are looking to expand massively in Australia, facilitated by the Connected Campus of SYD 10 and 11.

Digital Realty Connected Campuses bring all the critical data centre, network elements, cloud and connectivity together under a single, secure environment for numerous Australian and international customers. They deliver the on-ramp to the cloud, plus Digital Internet Gateways that optimise customer value through massive network-dense connectivity.

The beauty of the Connected Campus is that even on SYD 11’s first day of operation, there's already a connectivity-rich environment next door, and because the two data centres are side by side sharing a common boundary, the conduits at the boundary already exist and can be connected in.

“It gives a very strong ecosystem of customers through the POP and service exchange, and rather than coming in and out of the data centre, they're actually doing business within it,” Adcock explains.

“If you have a large mix of customers, like we have, they’re all exchanging amongst each other, and once you get the on-ramp to the Cloud, players such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft – Facebook is doing something different – once you get one or two of those companies in, the whole thing starts to multiply.”

In December 2015, Digital Realty announced a partnership with IBM to launch Direct Link Colo, a solution that connects customers its data centres directly to IBM Cloud via SoftLayer’s global Cloud infrastructure platform.

By removing third party carriers, the hybrid eco-system for organisations is easier.

“Some of the companies are so big, they acquire to catch up,” he adds. “IBM acquired SoftLayer and are buying into new digital technology. Microsoft is putting a lot of money to catch up with Amazon, who got an early adoption lead. And Google does its own thing.

Adcock says because the industry is growing so quickly, the biggest challenge is finding employees with the right skillset – and keeping them.

“We're being asked more frequently to provide remote services in the data centres that we're working in,” he reveals. “I think that's just a case of, things are growing so quickly, some of our customers are trying to push more of that onto us, which is something we support.

“But everyone is struggling to find people that are trained. It's interesting, as we’re actually finding companies that are either evolving the company itself – or groups within the company – to specifically service data centre work.

“It’s quite a unique skill set because, you actually want a high-quality product built quickly to start with, which is challenging itself – but these facilities are never build out 100% day one.

“And we use a modular, POD-type system, so as you go back and do those build outs in a live data centre, you need to have tradespeople that are very aware of what environment they're working in – you don't want something they're doing to bring down customers’ operations.

“These have to be very precisely planned and designed and built so that you can shut down sections of it, and use your redundancy to do your maintenance without impacting on the customer. So, you tend to build quite strong relationships with very precise people that understand the whole Permit for Work process and are very detailed.”

He reveals another challenge is that whenever anyone wants to start up a data centre, they try to entice staff away from Digital Realty, because they know they've been well trained, and the process and procedures in place are industry-leading.

In Australia, co-location growth is predicted at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.4% until 2022, and managed hosting revenues predicted to grow at a CAGR of 14.5%.

But Adcock claims the future of colocation managed services is hard to define over the next few years.

“Now, with your cloud, you've got private, public and hybrid,” he explains. “What colocation does, and always will, is allow the smaller companies as they're growing a stepping stone.

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“But equally, with the Amazon and Microsoft, they're almost virtualising that colocation process – and to the same extent, we are, through the service exchange. That gives you the chance to connect to a lot of different services, and electronically, where in the past you used to have the physical cross connects.

“They'll still be around, but I think the business is evolving and virtualising a lot of those features. I think the big thing is going to be ‘bots’, so rather than speaking to a person, it's an automated service.”

He uses the analogy of driverless cars, saying a lot of those features are already currently in the background, ditto with aeroplane auto pilots, “but we still have pilots there to step in when something out of left field happens that hasn't been programed in, and would take some time for a computer to adapt.

“There's always going to be a future there for these,” he adds, “it's just a matter to what scale they fit in to the whole stepping stone process.”

Data centres are essential utilities, as like in previous centuries, when power, electricity, water and telephone exchanges were. Because data centres and WiFi-type services are provided at the edge, people have got used to having instantaneous content-rich data, which then dictates low latency high bandwidth services – and while they're an essential utility, the performance they need to operate is at such a high level.

“There's a lot of talk about edge computing, and really that falls back into where you get demands for low latency,” he adds. “There's such a data-rich environment demanded nowadays.

“We used to have main frames and desktops, then it was laptops, and now handheld devices are doing the same thing. There's so much compute power that's embedded everywhere now that needs to be connected back to somewhere, and the Internet of Things is going to be an amazing opportunity for people who mine that for performance and applications.”

Adcock says he sees DNA genome as one of the major technology breakthroughs, and finds it mapping mind-blowing how you can have bespoke medicines targeted for you based on what genes you've got and how they react.

“It used to take years to map the DNA genome of the humans,” he says, “and now they're offering it as a service which is done in a matter of days. Behind that is massive compute power, so we've seen some of the institutional companies investing a lot of money in those analytics.

“Sometimes, you dare not ask what's happening in some of those data halls. Our POD is typically 1,000 sqm of white space and you walk in there from one end to the other and it's just rows and rows of computers – and what they can be doing on them now is amazing.”

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