Data centres set to grow like never before

When I was young, I had a dream. I dreamt of setting up a home server rack with a half-dozen servers.

Data centres set to grow like never before
Photo Credit: Paul Mah

When I was young, I had a dream. I dreamt of setting up a home server rack with a half-dozen servers.

Every boy needs a hobby, right?

That dream died abruptly in 2016, the day I fired up Huawei's FusionCube blade server in my study. I've inserted just one of the eight blade servers, but let's just say the din earned it an immediate ban from the wife.

In hindsight, my naive notion likely came from a time when servers were much quieter - and far less powerful. How things have changed.

Data centres are changing

Data centres are changing, because the computer systems they were created to host have evolved.

I was reminded of this at Huawei's Global Data Center Facility Summit 2024 this afternoon, held for the first time in Singapore.

Remember the different names we gave them?

  • Servers.
  • Blade servers.
  • Hyperconverged systems.

Today, it is GPU servers that go up to an incredible 100kW per rack in the form of Nvidia's GB200 NVL72 supercomputer.

Preposterous as it was to get the FusionCube uncrated along the main road and through security in 2016, a half dozen H100 GPUs firing up at once will probably put my circuit breaker on fire. For real.

Insights from today

Our rush for AI means that data centres are set to consume more power than before. Here are some insights I gained from the conference.

  1. Bigger, more powerful

By 2026, global consumption of electricity for data centres is predicted to top a trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh), says, Charles Yang of Huawei. Indeed, generative AI will see a million servers by end-2024, according to Michael Azoff of Omdia.

  1. Better than air-cooling

According to Michael, "precision air-cooling" is only good for GPUs of up to 700 watts (That's your H100 or low-powered B100). As we go up to 1,000W GPUs, only direct-to-chip will do. And as we go to 1,500W GPUs, only immersion cooling will work.

  1. Fast growth in ASEAN

Finally, ASEAN is set to experience the largest data centre growth ever over the next 5 years. According to the ASEAN Centre for Energy, we will go from a 1.5GW installed base to 3.2GW. That's more than double.

And yes, most of this will happen up north in Malaysia. I've written about it before.

Our societies cannot do without data centres today.

But as growth surges, the onus is on the industry and governments to ensure we put the right policies in place for sustainable use of our finite water and power. What do you think?

Huawei FusionCube