Digital Infrastructure: Towards Resilient Data Center Transition

Day 2, 5 May 2022, 1330 - 1500 IST

Session Annotation

In the context of infrastructure transition, this session will focus on highlighting challenges and possible solutions, outlining actionable steps to build resilience of data centres to physical risks associated with disasters and climate change. The principal issues identified for this session are: (1) emergent disaster and climate change risks; (2) measures to improve resilience due to increased interconnectedness and dependency; (3) user-centric performance-based guarantees; (4) collaborative actions for cross-sectoral and multistakeholder cooperation.

Session Overview

Spurred by rapid technological innovation within the past few decades, digital infrastructure as a ‘lifeline’ system has seen significant disruption, making digital services more accessible for governments, businesses and individuals. Data centres, including hyperscale, colocation and most recently, edge data centres have played a pivotal role in enabling this digital environment.

Although by design, data centres may be physically located in different geographies, they are interconnected networks of data storage facilities. Data centres which are usually located near high-demand areas rely on power, cooling, fire protection and suppression, effective recovery and business continuity plans for their operational resilience. Given the rising trends of both acute and chronic physical climate and disaster risks such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes etc., the ability of data centres to stay operational under all circumstances is challenged.

A study by Uptime Institute highlights that most data centre operators are not prepared to manage outages caused due to natural hazard-induced disasters [1]. In another study by Emerson and Ponemon Institute, it was estimated that unplanned outages of data centre services costs companies approximately US$9000/minute [2]. In addition to the costs, unplanned outages have indirect effects on end-users. With increasing financial investment into digital infrastructure, proliferation of hyper-scale data centres [3], and edge data centres that are located close to users, there is an urgency to build resilience of these critical assets to physical risks associated with disasters and climate change.

Moving ahead, growing awareness and response by digital service providers to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues are expected to drive data centres to grid-positivity. Such data centres may focus on the use of recycled materials in IT hardware supply chains, carbon neutrality targets for facilities, and lower energy and water use, and other such prerequisites for their businesses to thrive.

Furthermore, the roll out of 5G communication technology and data services worldwide, high-speed satellite Internet with low latency will spur greater investment and acceleration for Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) opportunities, all of which would require a resilient physical digital infrastructure backbone — a robust grid-positive data centre.  

The need for a robust and resilient digital infrastructure backbone supplemented by a shift to grid-positive data centres, will thus require envisioning a user-centred and resilient transition which would need to consider:

  • Responding to current as well as emergent disaster and climate change risks. The adoption of newer technologies and sources of renewable energy would mean unforeseen or emergent physical risks which would either require creation or updating of risk and resilience metrics.
  • Planning and implementing measures to improve resilience arising due to increased interconnectedness and dependency with other infrastructure sectors such as energy/power, water, supply-chains, and transition to 5G communication technologies.
  • Adopting people or user-centric performance-based guarantees via local, national, and global regulatory mechanisms, standards and certifications for grid-positive data centres, thus ensuring reliable service for users who are at the heart of valorising this service.


This session will primarily focus on highlighting challenges and possible solutions outlining steps for creation of an enabling environment for resilient transition to grid-positive data centres as well as interconnected systems. To this effect, the session will address the following questions:


  • What are the envisioned challenges for transitioning to grid-positivity?
  • What are the emergent disaster and climate change risks that future-ready data centres, such as grid-positive data centres would need to address? Thus, what will be the metrics for assessment of these emergent risks?
  • What measures will be needed to improve resilience arising due to increased interconnectedness and dependency with other infrastructure sectors such as energy/ power, water, supply-chains, etc.?
  • What regulatory mechanisms will be required to safeguard accountability and transparency of service delivery to last mile users? How will adoption of user-centric guarantees via local, national, and global regulatory mechanisms help build a resilient system?
  • What collaborative actions will need to be leveraged to ensure cross-sectoral and multistakeholder cooperation for mainstreaming resilience in the transition of data centre and accompanied infrastructure systems?