A new study carried out by Aachen University has found that 5G mobile communications will drastically increase the demand for energy at data centres. This increased demand. argues Paul Brickman from Crestchic load banks, puts additional pressure on data centre operators to ensure that they have robust back-up systems in place.

The report, which was sponsored by energy supplier, E.ON, suggests that high-bandwidth 5G networking will drive the demand for data, increasing the energy consumed by German data centres by 3.8 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year. The report suggests that this rise is equivalent to the amount of electricity consumed by 2.5 million people.

Paul commented, “The report relates to Germany, which is only a slice of the market, yet the growth in demand is fierce. Add to this the fact that growth has been forecast in the APAC, North America and Western Europe regions – plus reports of some of the internet’s best-known names investing in data centres – and it is clear that demand for data in on the up. Really, it’s no great surprise, with the IoT increasingly prevalent in industrial settings, demand for smart-home devices growing and a surge in streaming movies, our thirst for data seems to be unquenchable.”

To meet this increased need, suppliers are doing all they can to provide energy sustainably, as well as harnessing the heat generated by these power-hungry centres. However, while sustainability is key, data centre owners and operators also need to ensure that they have the infrastructure to provide continuous uptime – and a disaster recovery plan if systems fail.

Paul continues, “Reliability is absolutely crucial for data centres. Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) are universally accepted as a piece of critical business infrastructure. Acting as a bridge between the data centre and the backup generator, they provide instantaneous power in the event of a mains failure. However, when power is mission-critical, testing back-up power systems can make all the difference to whether they operate effectively when called upon. We’re seeing an increase in demand for load banks from all over the world – a significant proportion is from data centres which need to regularly test their back-up power to ensure that there is no downtime if a power outage occurs.”

According to US research body, the Ponemon Institute, power outages in data centres cost an average of close to £600,000. Taking into consideration the impact of outages in the hyper-scale data centres, financial services and airline markets, the cost could be closer to millions. Yet, despite reports of outages being extremely costly and often business-critical, data from the Uptime Institute in 2019 indicated that one-third of all data centres suffered from downtime. Staggeringly, the main cause (33%) of data centre downtime was power outages.

“Clearly,” concludes Paul, “the world’s reliance on data is set to increase. While the impact on energy consumption will also rise, our tolerance for downtime will decrease. The expectation of a secure, continuous “always-on” experience is already placing demand on suppliers to deliver and – with data centre downtime costing thousands of dollars per minute and potentially resulting in critical data breaches – operators must ensure that they have back-up plans in place.”