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Data center modernization – Upgrading legacy data centers to meet current and future business needs

Digital content will continue to rise exponentially and the last thing an enterprise would want is to be stuck with a legacy IT infrastructure that can impede their business agility and scalability. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80 percent of enterprises will shut down their legacy infrastructure – those siloed, labor-intensive, slow to set up, and expensive-to-maintain conglomerations of hardware and software.

Challenges of legacy data centers
Difficulty to implement newer technologies: The legacy data centers (DCs) were built in the pre-cloud and AI era. They lack the agility and flexibility to meet the demands of modern workloads and applications like big data, generative AI, IoT, cloud computing, etc. The integration of newer IT technologies means DC infrastructure must adapt to changes and load demands so it can meet future business drivers while still keeping costs low.

Ineffective cooling: Cooling alone results in ~30 percent of the power costs for the entire data center. The cooling systems used in legacy data centers are only able to handle lower-power densities and are incapable of catering to very-high-density AI/ML-based application workloads.

Less reliable: Legacy DCs are less reliable as they offer rated 2/3 design, which is not concurrently maintainable, and they rely only on a single power feed. Organizations are demanding new-age data centers, which can offer rated 3+ hyperscale designs and are concurrently maintainable, and that can take feeds from multiple substations or have an onsite GIS substation.

Higher PUE: Another problem with legacy DCs is that their PUE (power usage effectiveness) is more than 2.5. Older mechanical and electrical systems tend to deliver lower energy-efficiency than newer, more advanced systems, thus further increasing the operating costs. Below par power and cooling efficiency also results in compliance issues with environmental regulations.

Limited security measures: A legacy DC lacks both physical security as well as electronics security, along with adherence to global standards and regulations. At the physical layer, the right mix of physical and electronic security tools and components should be constantly assessed, and deployed to keep the threat vector minimal. New AI/ML-based cameras, intrusion detection systems, man traps, and two-factor authentication access with secure digital key management systems are the need of the hour.

With automation and more complex IT systems enabling the digital part of DC, the legacy system built on multiple hardware and software products lacks the scalability and reliability to be redesigned and to accommodate new-age compute, cooling and green technologies. Upgrading a legacy data center’s infrastructure is the need of the hour and can boost reliability, efficiency, flexibility, and scalability while reducing operational spending.

Primary drivers of data center modernization
The technology world around us is changing at a rapid pace. Organizations are moving to digital-first approach by adopting new-age technologies, such as cloud, AI, IoT, 5G, big data, and AR/VR. This is leading to increased demand for new-age data centers that are agile, automated, application-friendly and multi-cloud capable.

Generative AI adoption: AI-based applications are data hungry and compute-intensive. They demand robust new age data centers (DCs) that are capable of handling very-high-density workloads going up to 50 kW per rack. When rack densities reach these extreme levels, the DCs should have the ability to handle much higher floor load bearings and innovative cooling solutions, such as direct-to-chip and full immersive liquid cooling.

Edge computing: Organizations are looking to get close to their customers to offer a hyper-personalized customer experience. The deployment of 5G networks, along with rapid adoption of new age applications, are driving the huge demand for edge compute in India. These technologies require ultra-low latency and higher bandwidth to deliver its full potential. Network-dense, distributed edge data centers are becoming essential to enable real-time processing closer to the source itself, thus improving consumer experience.

Agile services: Legacy manual methods of data center operations and management – in-person monitoring, maintenance, troubleshooting, and resource provisioning – do not deliver services at the speed and scale required by modern business. Organizations are now demanding automated, digitized infrastructure to achieve the agility and operational simplicity.

Energy efficiency and sustainability: Adoption of global best ESG practices is topping the list of strategic business priorities to stay ahead of the curve. There has also been a shift in consumer preferences toward greener and sustainable alternatives. Adopting innovative green energy solutions and replacing outdated or inefficient technology to reduce energy consumption and maintain a smaller carbon footprint to meet the sustainability targets is one of the key pillars of data center modernization.

Security and compliance: Security in a data center is utmost important and should keep pace with the technological advancements to stay ahead of evolving cyber and physical threats. To ensure data integrity and confidentiality, organizations demand modern, purpose-built DCs that can adhere to global compliance and regulations and offer new-age tools to safeguard data in transit and at rest.

Key strategies for successful data center modernization
Data center modernization is a critical initiative for organizations aiming to enhance efficiency, agility, and overall performance. A successful modernization project involves a combination of strategic planning, technology adoption, and operational improvements.

At Nxtra, we operate the largest interconnected network of 12 large and 120 edge data centers in India. In the past few years, we have taken several initiatives and adopted new-age technologies to modernize our data centers.

Modular design: At Nxtra, we are building future-ready, digitized data center infrastructure with the advanced modular design approach that can seamlessly scale with business needs on demand. We have a large in-house design team, which works as the Center of Excellence (COE), with specialists in the area of cooling, structural, and more. This team continues to work on cutting-edge design solutions based on continuous learning from the industry best practices, customers, and partners.

Dense digital infrastructure: As there is rapid adoption of artificial intelligence (AI)-based applications, we are ensuring all our new hyperscale data centers are designed to handle complex AI workloads through high structural floor loading and next-gen cooling technologies, thus providing hyperscalers and enterprises a future-ready infrastructure to implement AI and other next-gen applications.

Automation and orchestration: AI has emerged as a cornerstone within our data centers to achieve operational excellence. By leveraging AI tools, we are improving the predictability of our systems and have achieved a significant reduction in energy consumption, downtime, manual efforts, maintenance costs and troubleshooting time.

Secure by design: Nxtra has embraced several technological advancements to stay ahead of evolving cyber and physical threats. We offer comprehensive, multi-layer security for our data centers, including under-vehicle scanner, AI/ML-driven surveillance cameras, intrusion detection systems, man traps, and centralized command center that ensures a safer and protected place to prevent organization’s IT infrastructure.

Energy efficiency: Nxtra has secured ISO 50001:2018 certification for its core data centers in FY 23. Over the past five years, we saw a remarkable 20-percent improvement in power usage effectiveness (PUE). Better energy efficiency has further helped us in optimizing operational costs, minimizing environmental impact, and enhancing sustainability.

Advanced green technology: With an ambition to achieve net zero by 2031, we recently became the first data center company in India to adopt hydrogen-ready fuel cell technology to reduce carbon emissions. In addition to wind and solar, we are investing in new innovative green energy technologies to provide clean energy. Green is the theme for all our new designs and operations.

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