Increasing Demand of Data Centres
There has been strong, steady growth in the use of computers and networks for 30 years and consequently, ever-growing demand for data centres. The COVID-19 lockdown accelerated the trend sharply; in September 2020 Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, announced that the National Broadband Network was seeing the highest ever demand. With many people working from home, downloads during work hours were up 70% while uploads – required by video conferencing software like Zoom – were up 110%. Zoom saw the number of its registered users rise by 2000% in little more than a month.
When we aren’t at the computer for work, we are now extensive users for entertainment. Streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Stan, Disney Plus, Binge and Foxtel all saw business surging. There was also steep growth in online chat, shopping and gaming. 89% of Australians are now daily internet users.
Even as the vaccines roll out, it is clear that many things have changed permanently. Digital entertainment, video-chat, online shopping, smartphone browsing and remote working are here to stay, and new digital technologies like 5G and the IoT are sure to boost demand further. The need for more data centre capacity is urgent, but rapid growth on the scale we are seeing will unfortunately always be accompanied by challenges.
Data centres are more efficient and cheaper to run when close to centres of population. There are several reasons; they are closer to their staff, suppliers, customers and to the oceanic cables that link them to the world beyond Australia. However, data centres are extremely noisy, mainly because of the fans and ventilation cooling systems needed to keep processors and buildings at the correct operating temperatures. All that noise has a negative impact on staff, neighbours and the equipment itself – data centres must take a well-structured approach to noise control.
Internal acoustic solutions can include absorbent or isolated flooring, acoustic wall paneling, as well as acoustic doors and windows to separate spaces. Attenuators as part of the ventilation systems are typically used throughout the building configuration, while acoustic louvres are used on the external envelope.
Major outdoor noise pollution problems are posed by HVAC equipment and stand-by or backup generators. The solutions for these include louvered enclosures, fan and exhaust attenuators, anti-vibration mounts, acoustic doors and perimeter screening acoustic barriers and landscaping.
The development of noise control solutions for data centres should be developed as part of a complete strategy. An acoustic survey, or pre-build consultation, will identify the areas and frequency ranges that should be prioritised and the most appropriate mitigation strategies to adopt.
You must also ensure that your cooling systems, ventilation, building access and service channels are all compatible with the acoustic solution adopted. Local planning regulations may also influence your solution. IAC Acoustics has significant sector experience in managing acoustic strategies and noise control solutions for data centres and the associated noise sources. We would be happy to discuss any initial project specifications or solution mapping ideas with you.
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