UK data centres at risk of outages this winter

The resilience of data centres across the UK powering public services will be put to the test this winter, due to rising energy costs

Data centre operators have asked the Government for short term priority for energy usage in the event of restricted power, to ensure that public services such as banking and healthcare remain operational, reports The Times.

A consortium of operators are set to share their concerns around possible outages at a meeting with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), this month.

The DCMS is due to present findings from a now closed consultation on UK data storage and infrastructure, later this year.

The department states that “the UK is now reliant on large-scale data storage and processing services for the delivery of our essential services and the functioning of our broader economy.

“This means that ensuring the continuity of service of data storage and processing infrastructure is of national interest.”

Many providers across Europe are already reporting energy use restrictions, with services only running for eight hours at a time, as opposed to continuously.

The importance of continuous energy supply

Constant energy supply is vital for keeping data centres cool and operational 24/7.

Businesses across all sectors, in turn, are increasingly reliant on data centres for maintaining their services, as well as compliantly storing internal and customer data.

Critical facilities in Central London backing up financial services are particularly vulnerable to outages, due to possibly requiring thousands of litres of diesel to keep them running, if the National Grid is no longer a viable source.

Even with fuel, switching to generators leaves businesses at risk of further technical issues.

According to Gartner data centre specialist Tiny Haynes, “It’s going to be a quagmire when you want to be able to resupply areas around the Docklands with huge articulated lorries.

“It will snarl up the Blackwall Tunnel and data centres might go down. It’s a big issue.”

Andy Lawrence, executive director of research at the Uptime Institute, commented: “There’s a lot of evidence that when you switch from grid to generator that issues are likely to occur. This could also wreak havoc with sustainability commitments.”

The International Energy Agency predicts that data centres globally use approximately 200-250 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity a year — around 1 per cent of total demand.


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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.