For an insight of the climate change risk to UK data centres, earlier this year the Committee of Climate Change offered a detailed report. The authors pointed out that it’s difficult to make a quantitative assessment of the risks due to the lack of visibility into locations and connectivity arrangements of the UK’s private-sector data centres. Predictably, though, there is an increase in the frequency and severity of flooding -this is described as one of the most significant threats.
This is very consistent with past experiences. In recent years, the Vodafone data centre located in Leeds and the BT exchange in London are just a couple of the facilities within the UK to have suffered downtime, loss of power and damaged equipment as a result of flooding. Speaking more broadly, a hotter climate has implications on the cooling of the data centre. The UK has experienced a 0.5° C rise in average temperatures since the 1970s. This is expected to rise by another 2° C by the year 2040.
Within the data as much as anywhere else, that’s a significant and alarming factor – particularly for data centres that were designed years ago to accommodate lower power loads and are therefore served by potentially inadequate cooling hardware that may be difficult or in some cases impossible to replace with more modern or flexible systems.
So, what’s the outlook for the UK data centre industry? How should providers and their customers prepare for changes in climate? At INFINITI we take all these factors into consideration when building your IT infrastructure. We recommend the following 4 main provisions.
Choose a data centre location with a low flooding risk.
Flooding risks vary form one area of the UK to another, as the map from the Environmental Agency demonstrates below. One of the simplest ways to prepare for a hotter, wetter climate is to locate your digital infrastructure in areas of the country with a low flooding risk – and bear in mind some medium risk places today may change soon.
Ensure diversity of power and network connections
Network and power line cables can easily be taken out during a flood or storm. So, its important to ensure your data centre benefits from sufficiency diverse power feeds and network connections in order to stay online and last destructive weathering. It’s also important to consider a data centre’s backup power capabilities, design and redundancy. These are solely under the control of the data centre operator. Expect the failure of external power and the network feeds – ensure your business is comfortable with the data centre’s ability to cope for extended periods.
Consider disaster recovery provisions and suitability
No level of resilience is a replacement for a disaster recovery plan. Establishing a secondary site with diverse power and network connectivity may be a necessary provision to address emerging environmental risks. For colocation customers, it’s also worth considering the location and accessibility of your providers data centre, and whether you’d be able to physically access your servers in the event of a network or power outage.
Consider implications for data centre cooling
Many UK data centres already struggle to cool their racks during the summer and its heatwaves, and the increase in average temperatures is only putting more pressure on the cooling infrastructure in the data centre. Organisations that in the past that have managed to run their data centres out of converted offices and other unsuitable buildings may find this more and more untenable in the future without introducing new measures and improved insulation, containment and efficiency.
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