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Datacentre sustainability a work in progress in ASEAN

Sustainability efforts have not kept pace with the growing demand for datacentre and co-location services in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia has some of the fastest-growing datacentre markets in the Asia-Pacific region, but datacentre sustainability remains a work in progress.

According to Cushman & Wakefield, the datacentre and co-location market in Southeast Asia is tipped to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 12.9% to reach $3.4bn by 2024, driven by ongoing digitisation efforts across the region.

Amid the rapid growth, organisations across the region are facing challenges in keeping their expanding datacentre footprint sustainable.

A recent survey of 208 organisations in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia found that the lack of environmental awareness (71%), lack of investment (65%) and lack of collaboration from stakeholders (61%) were key challenges to making datacentres more sustainable. 

This was despite that fact that energy efficiency and sustainability were considered the most important or somewhat important by 66% of respondents when choosing a third-party datacentre provider.

That proportion was still lower than other factors, such as reliability and security, pricing, scalability and network connectivity, which were deemed to be the most important or somewhat important.

But this could change in the next five years, with 89% of respondents noting that sustainability would be a factor or an important consideration when choosing datacentre providers by 2025.

A report detailing the survey findings singled out Southeast Asia’s tropical climate and policy gaps as additional impediments to the region’s long-term growth as a competitive and sustainable datacentre market.

“Southeast Asia is home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and its rapid development will accelerate the demand for data services,” said Jessica Cheam, managing director of Eco-Business, which conducted the study on behalf of Digital Realty.

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“Against this backdrop, it is crucial that datacentre providers find a way to meet this need while ensuring they are playing a part in helping countries meet their climate targets.”

The study also emphasised that cooling needs represent 35-40% of total datacentre energy demand. Energy-efficient cooling technologies and processes, including liquid cooling, represent a significant opportunity for datacentre operators to reduce energy usage and costs.  

“It is encouraging to see that most customers in the region view sustainability as a key consideration when choosing a datacentre provider,” said Aaron Binkley, senior director of sustainability at Digital Realty.

“This aligns with Digital Realty’s position on sustainability and our commitment to bringing our emissions in line with a significantly below two-degree climate change scenario by 2030. We believe cooling technology will be a game-changer for datacentres, especially in Southeast Asia’s tropical climate.”

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