Challenges ahead for Malaysia's data center aspirations

  • Having an infrastructure that is the best would be critical in attracting the international community
  • Malaysia well-positioned, but needs to pursue the opportunity quickly

Challenges ahead for Malaysia's data center aspirationsMALAYSIA is in a position to take advantage of significant opportunities in the data center arena, but these opportunities also come with much risk.
This was the observation Mark Thiele (pic); senior vice president of Data Centre Tech at Switch Communications made in a Skype interview with Digital News Asia.
Thiele noted that developing countries tend to strive toward having something available rather than having the best available. “The thinking is having something is better than having nothing.”
“The market is growing significantly, and much of the available infrastructure is old and can’t meet current needs,” he added.
The associated risk comes from not pursuing such opportunities quickly but also the investment and speed required to upgrade or build new facilities that offer high availability and density.
“That’s the hard part here. Unlike transitions in technology, the business opportunities presenting themselves today will spread in two to three years internationally and soon saturate the market,” he said.
“If data centers can’t support such opportunities with availability and performance, it will be a significant inhibitor to doing business,” he added.
On the tendency for Asian businesses to favor cost over performance in data center considerations, Thiele said that businesses must weigh in the monetary cost with potential risks.
“In order to service the international community and cater for mission-critical operations, spending more to make it the best is a better option than risk having everything go down,” he said.
“On its own, Malaysia could develop everything internally within five to seven years. With the right partners bringing in technology and expertise, that timeline could be shortened to two years. It all depends on how you want to approach the opportunity,” he added.

The Malaysian Government's ambitious Economic Transformation Program (ETP) includes making Malaysia a world-class hub for data centers as one of its key thrusts.

Strengthening the network
Networking is a criteria often overlooked with it comes to site selection for new data centers and is especially critical to multi-tenant data centers. With more enterprises focused on leveraging networks to “do work everywhere”, the diversity of work environments has heightened its importance.
“Networking has never been more important. Because the capacity required from it so high, it’s important to have diversity of network offerings. Don’t get locked in with one or two providers,” said Thiele.
When asked about cases such as Malaysia where there are limited numbers of providers, Thiele said that existing providers could partner with more outside companies. To make the market more attractive, he said, the Government could also guarantee the price and availability over time.
“The successful long-term option is to allow for some level of diversity in-country and increase partnerships in-region, to help make Malaysia more obvious to the global network community,” he added.
Challenges ahead for Malaysia's data center aspirationsDefining the modern data center
A hot topic for the coming year for data center players will be the ability to support new modern high-density environments.
“This is a real issue, more obvious to global data center community. The continuing trend of enterprises getting out of their own data centers will have a significant impact and strain on available capabilities,” he said.
According to Thiele, there are three core characteristics that define the modern data center: Ultra-efficiency, modularity and the ability to handle high-density equipment.
“When talking about modern data centers, I’m not talking about new facilities that were built just last year. It’s about an approach to data center design intended to satisfy the demands of global companies which need high availability and performance,” he said.
Ultra-efficiency refers to the facility’s ability to run at or near modern efficiency standards. For example, having a low power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating, where an ideal rating is 1.0.
Thiele points to his company’s SuperNAP facility, which opened in 2008, in Nevada, United States as an example.
“It’s a giant facility with highest levels of density and yet runs a yearly PUE of 1.24. Most data centers about two to three years old typically range from 1.5 to 2.0 or higher,” he said.
Modularity as defined by Thiele is the capability of the data center’s infrastructure to scale up easily, adding components at availability levels as needed.
“The idea is to not install what you don’t need, replacing or adding components while the data center is still running. This reduces the risk of over-investing in infrastructure, allows more effective management of tier strategy, and improves the cost and efficiency of ownership,” he said.
A modern data center must also be built to handle and ever-increasing densities as more compute power is packed into a smaller space.
“With a modern data center, you would have thousands of cabinets running at nearly 1,500 watts per square foot offering about five times the capacity of current facility,” said Thiele.
He added that with more power in a smaller space, the need to remove the accompanying heat becomes a critical design characteristic.
Approaching the building of a modern datacenter and its role as the digital equivalent of a major port will the main topic for Thiele when he’s in town for the Datacentres Malaysia summit on Jan 16-17.
When asked what he hopes the key takeaway for attendees will be from his presentation, Thiele said: “That the data center is finally coming out of the shadows but many don’t yet realize how much more important it is to daily lives and the growth of companies and countries.”
The Datacentres Malaysia summit, hosted at Intercontinental Hotel Kuala Lumpur, includes the conference, special workshops and an industry exhibition. The event is touted to provide a unique networking platform for enterprises considering outsourcing or establishing their own facilities in Malaysia, services and solution providers, investors, and professional intermediaries.
Participation in the event is expected not only from Malaysia, but from neighboring countries in Asia and from the Middle East, Europe and North America. Digital News Asia is amongst the official media for the event.
To read more from Mark Thiele, visit his blog SwitchScribe.

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