The Data Centre Alliance, or DCA is UK-based but operates across Europe. It is a not-for-profit trade association focused on the data centre infrastructure sector. Its main focus is activities to improve the effectiveness of data centres, but it promotes awareness of both the role of data centres, and innovations that can deliver sustainability for the industry. It currently has over 450 associate and corporate members, making it one of the largest trade associations of its kind.
History and activities
The DCA was established in 2009, as part of work by the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry and the European Commission. It was established as a wholly independent and vendor-neutral trade association for the entire data centre community. Members include private data centre and server room operators or owners, users of third party data centre services and suppliers of products or services to data centres, as well as data centre operators themselves.
Overall, the DCA’s work includes supporting members to open up new markets, raising awareness among businesses, the media, governments and the general public, promoting the development and harmonisation of data centre standards, leading research and development, collaborating with industry stakeholders and improving environmental sustainability.
The DCA’s activities fall into four key areas, insight, influence, validation and sustainability. Insight describes the sharing of information and ideas among members and subscribers. The DCA publishes more than 100 articles each year authored by its members. Its subscriber and media programmes mean that it offers a very effective platform to help members to reach their desired audience. It has a range of resources available to members and others, including blogs, papers and reports, all sorted by category for easy searching.
Influence describes the work of the DCA to shape national and international policy. Its size means that the DCA is seen as an effective voice for the data centre sector, giving it a strong input into policy making. It is also able to raise awareness of issues affecting its members. The DCA’s validation work is related to setting and revising international standards for data centres, and sharing operational best practice. Finally, its work on sustainability covers several areas, including workforce and skills development and energy efficiency.
Supporting sustainability and energy efficiency
There are three special interest groups that are particularly pertinent to work on sustainability: those on energy efficiency, sustainability, and thermal management.
The energy efficiency special interest group is linked to the standards development organisations for both the UK and the European Union. It is heavily involved in the development of standards and key metrics for designing, building and operating data centres. It also has an interest in emerging concepts for improving the sustainability of data centre buildings, such as energy flexibility, waste heat reuse, and onsite and offsite energy generation alternatives.
The sustainability special interest group is also interested in energy efficiency, and the two groups work closely together. However, the sustainability group also has other elements to its remit, including developing best practice on materials use and reuse, skills development and workforce retention in data centres.
The work includes optimising energy efficiency, which may require a better understanding of the effect of IT hardware and load on requirements. The group is also interested in how to minimise data transfer and storage, and is considering a sector code of conduct on this issue. Its work encompasses circular economy/energy solutions such as reusing heat and power, use of renewable energy, and new technology. Like the energy efficiency group, it has an interest in standard-setting, because standards will affect energy use, and energy efficiency best practice may inform standard-setting. The group is also working on workforce education about sustainability, to ensure that the data centre workforce has the required skills and knowledge to deliver in this area.
Finally, the thermal management special interest group is one of the newest of these groups. It has been formed to help data centres to work through the different options available in terms of cooling and heating systems, including traditional and newer air-based cooling systems, waste heat harvesting and reuse, and newer liquid cooling systems. This is a complex area, and rapidly becoming more so as more options emerge.
The bottom line
In summary, the DCA is a membership organisation with considerable reach and expertise across Europe—and a determination to play its part in developing the data centre of the future.