The future of data centre facilities management in the Middle East

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The future of data centre facilities management in the Middle East

By Melvis Figueiredo
Head of Business Development for IFM, ENGIE Solutions GCC

The Middle East data centre market is poised for significant growth, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of seven percent between 2021 and 2026.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, the role of data centres has never been more critical, especially in the Middle East, where rapid digitization and growing demand for sustainable operations present unique challenges. Effective facilities management (FM) is essential to ensure the reliable operation of these vital infrastructure assets.

The Middle East data centre market is poised for significant growth, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of seven percent between 2021 and 2026. This growth is driven by businesses’ rapid digital transformation and the widespread adoption of cloud computing. However, this expansion highlights the pressing need for skilled FM professionals who can navigate the complexities of managing regional data centres.

Part of this complexity is managing the increasingly sophisticated technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and automation being applied in FM. While these technologies are valuable in predictive maintenance, energy efficiency, and cybersecurity, they often require a new skill set.

Melvis Figueiredo, Head of Business Development for IFM, ENGIE Solutions GCC

These demands are set against a widening global skills ICT gap. It is estimated that 5,000 FM staff will be needed to support the projected 1 GW of IT power deployment in Saudi Arabia alone by 2030. To bridge this gap, organisations must invest in comprehensive training programs and forge partnerships with educational institutions to attract, train, and retain local talent.

In parallel, we must seek to break siloes that have traditionally impeded operational efficiency. Instead, we advocate removing these barriers and adopting collaboration, open communication, and continuous improvement. Collaboration between FM teams and data centre designers is equally essential, as involving FM professionals in the design process can optimise redundancies and incorporate operational learnings into future projects.

Data centre FM in the Middle East is uniquely challenging in a region where temperatures can soar above 50°C in summer; energy efficiency is critical in this environment. The adoption of green energy sources, such as solar power, is gaining traction in the region, with countries like the United Arab Emirates aiming to generate 50 per cent of their energy from clean sources by 2050.

Data centres can reduce their environmental impact while lowering operational costs by incorporating energy-efficient designs and leveraging renewable energy sources. FM teams can further drive sustainability by implementing strategies such as optimising cooling systems, waste reduction and recycling programs, and using sustainable materials in facility construction and maintenance.

Security and risk mitigation are paramount in the Middle East’s geopolitical landscape. Ensuring the physical security of data centres requires implementing robust access control measures, advanced surveillance systems, and comprehensive emergency response plans to mitigate the risk of unauthorised access or sabotage.

Moreover, as data centres become critical drivers of economic performance and national security, nationalisation has emerged as a vital pursuit. For us in the space, nationalisation efforts aim to empower local talent, foster economic growth, and reduce dependence on foreign-owned data centres. This can be achieved through collaborating with educational institutions, encouraging local sourcing, providing government incentives, and engaging with local communities.

Efficient data centre operations rely on seamless collaboration among subcontractors, which raises challenges associated with domain specialisation and maintaining consistent quality. These can be addressed by facilitating joint meetings and cross-training sessions, defining clear performance metrics, implementing rigorous quality control processes, and leveraging digital communication and data analytics tools.

In conclusion, the future of data centre FM in the Middle East is both a challenge and an opportunity. Organisations can ensure that their data centres remain reliable, efficient, and secure by investing in talent development, embracing emerging technologies, prioritising sustainability, fostering collaboration and innovation, and addressing security challenges. As the region continues to experience rapid digital transformation, skilled FM professionals will play a critical role in supporting the growth and success of the data centre industry in the Middle East.

Source: Edge Middle East

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