CNME Editor Mark Forker spoke to Anastasios Peppas, Regional Director, Middle East, Turkey & Central Asia at Vertiv, to find out how their solution portfolio is empowering the next-generation of datacentres, the growing market demand to deliver environmentally-friendly datacentres – and the impact the acquisition of E&I has had in terms of solidifying Vertiv’s position as a global leader in the datacentre industry.
Anastasios Peppas is widely-regarded as one of the most prominent thought-leaders in the datacentre ecosystem across the Middle East.
Peppas joined Vertiv in 2012, and during that time he has played a key role in establishing Vertiv as the go-to player in the datacentre space.
CNME managed to catch-up with him recently to take a deeper dive into the trends that are driving new innovations within the datacentre sector, the pressure to reduce the environmental impact of datacentres and the rationale behind the acquisition of Irish company E&I in 2021.
Peppas kickstarted the conversation by highlighting how the power capacity required for datacentres is expected to skyrocket over the next few years.
“There have been a number of comprehensive reports that are projecting that the worldwide growth of the power consumption needed for datacentres over the next 6 years is going to double. Forecasts are also predicting that the power capacity will grow from the 75 gigawatt that is typical today, to over 150 Gigawatt in the next few years. This clearly illustrates tremendous growth, but roughly 40% of these workloads will come from AI applications. Traditional applications will also grow, but the biggest growth is expected to come from AI,” said Peppas.
Peppas then moved the dial of the conversation towards big industry players such as Google and Amazon Web Services, who have invested significantly in GPUs as reported by Omdia recently.
“Omdia also recently reported that hyper-scalers such as Google and Amazon Web Services are investing aggressively in GPUs. However, there is a fundamental difference between a CPU and a GPU. A CPU is a traditional microprocessor and consumes around 300-400 kilowatts, whereas a GPU consumes around 1 kilowatt. Now if you scale this up then that obviously makes a huge difference in the cooling requirements within a datacentre. GPUs are now used mostly to deal with AI applications, as AI is very compute-intensive, so in order to reject that heat you need specialised cooling systems, and here is where Vertiv comes in,” said Peppas.
Peppas disclosed some of the capabilities provided by Vertiv’s solution offering when it comes to high-density systems.
“Obviously when you have a range of different applications then inevitably you will require different solutions, but Vertiv is equipped and ready to address all of it. Traditional high density air-cooled systems in the range of 20-30 kilowatt can now be managed with modern containment systems that Vertiv offers in the cloud world. The next stage of rack density is the range of 40-50 kilowatt, which is liquid cooled, and then the next step beyond that, which we expect to be in the next 5-10 years will be in the range of 70-100 kilowatt per rack. However, we will continue to adapt and evolve our product portfolio to meet the changing demands of the marketplace,” said Peppas.
Peppas also added that he believes that datacentres of the future will adopt a hybrid model, and that liquid cooled datacentres will be the norm.
“There are going to be datacentres in the future that will be hybrid, where parts of their systems are air-cooled, whilst other parts will be cooled by liquid solutions. Over the next 7-10 years liquid cooled datacentres may become the norm. A combination of liquid cooled systems together with our high-density UPS systems, which are extremely efficient can offer a complete end-to-end solution for our clients, that ultimately enables them to be ready for the next generation of rack density, which is made up of GPUs,” said Peppas.
Sustainability has now become a huge priority in the C-suite, and businesses across multiple industries are making concerted efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.
Datacentres are extremely energy intensive, but Vertiv is helping their clients become more efficient and reduce carbon footprint, highlighting for example how free cooling in the Middle East is possible.
“Every single product of Vertiv undergoes rigorous testing, and has been developed to drive efficiency, the guiding principle behind the innovation of all our products is efficiency. The cooling solutions that we provide are among the most efficient in the world, and they incorporate systems such as free cooling. Clients have asked me is free cooling possible in the Middle East? And my answer is always the same, which is of course it is, and we know this because we’ve done it. Now, granted we can’t provide it all year round, but we can attain free cooling for 2-3 months a year in cities like Dubai, whilst in a place like Riyadh, we can probably achieve free cooling for 4 months a year, because it has a drier climate and is more elevated. A combination of free cooling with very efficient cooling systems provides solutions to our clients that are extremely efficient and environmentally-friendly,” said Peppas.
As Peppas pointed out the majority of the power consumption in a datacentre outside the IT requirement is cooling, and the more you can achieve savings with an efficient cooling system, then ultimately the more efficient and sustainable the entire datacentre becomes.
“In the Middle East, where we all know the climate is very hot, Vertiv has done it, and we will continue to offer the latest technologies in terms of energy efficiency. This is our focus, and our niche market, and we will continue to invest and specialise in this area. Certain clients have included in their tender evaluations the calculations of what the environmental impact will be when selecting certain vendors. 20% of our clients in the Middle East are now looking for the environmental impact, but we see that demand growing exponentially over the next few years. When I first came to the region 11 years ago, nobody wanted to talk about the environmental impact of datacentres, everybody wanted a datacentre that was freezing, but the landscape has certainly changed now.. Customers are turning to Vertiv for highly efficient solutions that can help reduce their carbon footprint and become more sustainable. ” said Peppas.
In September 2021, Vertiv acquired E&I for $1.8bn, in a deal that industry commentators have described as a ‘gamechanger’.
Peppas explained the rationale behind the acquisition and its success.
“We are very proud of this acquisition as it perfectly complements what we are doing at Vertiv. The rationale behind the acquisition stemmed from the fact that E&I under the leadership of Philip have managed to build quite an in-depth worldwide access to hyper-scalers, and they did this by developing high-powered distribution systems. So, it was a natural fit for Vertiv to look out for a company like E&I, because that was missing from the Vertiv portfolio. Vertiv has always been very strong inside the white space when it comes to cooling and power, but it did not have an offering when it comes to power distribution,” said Peppas.
In addition to this, Peppas outlined how datacentres were looking for a more inclusive and integrated approach, and that was another factor in Vertiv acquiring E&I.
“In the two years since the acquisition of E&I Engineering and PowerBar Gulf, Vertiv has expanded its global manufacturing footprint for switchgear, busbar and modular power solutions by opening new facilities and adding production to existing facilities, resulting in more than 1,000 additional employees through 2023. As a result of the acquisition, we can offer a complete and comprehensive datacentre offering from the transformer to the rack, and that includes all the power distribution systems and switchgear systems, and all these systems are high-powered and high-density equipment. In summary, E&I was a natural fit for us, and it has been a huge success for us thus far,” said Peppas.