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Looking ahead: How to create a multi-year datacentre capacity plan



Looking ahead: How to create a multi-year datacentre capacity plan

Fleur Doidge


Published: 15 Jun 2022

Multi-year datacentre planning is more constrained than ever, with equipment and construction lead times lengthening against a background of rising requirements around storage, power and compute. With hyperscalers sitting on resources in a global game of musical chairs, how can players plan to get ahead before the music stops?

Jinender Jain, UK and Ireland sales head at IT consultancy Tech Mahindra, notes that power, cooling and space parameters should be assessed as a whole – and says it’s a “no-brainer” to adjust datacentre capacity based on business needs, demands and dynamics and allow for spare capacity that can quickly come on-stream.

However, many datacentres designed for 200W per square foot are still operating at half that wattage or less, with rack power effectively stranded. “As any datacentre manager knows, capacity planning is as much art as it is science,” says Jain.

There is little chance of the return on investment on material costs, as Uptime Institute’s 2022 Outage analysis highlights that power and networking issues still cause multiple outages globally, with nearly 30% of major public outages in 2021 lasting 24 hours, compared with 8% in 2017.

“Operators still struggle to meet high standards that customers expect and service-level agreements demand – despite improving technologies and strong resiliency and downtime prevention investments,” says Andy Lawrence, Uptime Institute Intelligence executive director.

Steve Wright, chief operating officer at colocation and cloud provider 4D Data Centres, says concerns and risk factors should link to any multi-year plan – from data sovereignty, skills and systems, quantity and type of cloud or datacentre environment required.

Newer cloud-first deployments can require big data analytics or artificial intelligence (AI) testing, not least because multi-MW ramp-ups can cause “astronomical” cost blow-outs. Those that deal in “bigger” data may also need to replace 1,000 servers every two or three years. Some customers might be shrinking and others growing – and it is easier to expand than shrink capacity.

Yet for many customers, beyond about 12 months out or with a budget cycle ahead, things are “quite fluffy”, says Wright. “Six months before inception, they then say ‘we need to get this nailed down’,” he adds.

4D plans 15-20 years ahead around the lifespans of mechanical and electrical equipment in its own datacentres, matching requirements against the age and state of a location. The right size of land is needed, ideally near a high-voltage connection point, with capacity available, with dense fibre connectivity and access to a suitable workforce, with flexibility “designed in” to accommodate technological change, says Wright.

“With our Gatwick facility we thought about high-density cooling, tweaking the cooling system to enable that to happen,” he says. “Last year, we deployed immersion cooling for a customer; the year before we went with high-density, rear-door cooling on racks to support high-performance computing-type environments where a standard 7kW rack just won’t cut it.”

Supply chain constraints

Wright says large facilities may aim to plan as far ahead as 2050, but customers may have a relatively short-term view. That is on top of supply chain constraints, particularly on networking equipment, with lead times of 275 days from Cisco or Juniper.

“And if you put in for a power connection request for a datacentre right now and it’s in London, you’re probably looking at 2025 before you get your power allocated,” he adds. “Redesigns and networking are having to happen a bit more on the fly.”

Lewis White, enterprise infrastructure vice-president – Europe at CommScope, agrees that there is more pressure in today’s power-and-network access-centred conversations around capacity.

“Lane speeds have risen from 40Gbps to 100Gbps, even 400Gbps in larger enterprise and cloud datacentres,” he says. “Operators are now deploying optical fibre infrastructures that can support 800Gbps and beyond – going all-in on fibre investment.”

Simon Riggs, Postgres fellow at EDB, points out that squaring monthly performance or annually recurring revenue with a demand for multi-year plans might not sit comfortably beside an agility mantra. Also, accountants rarely tie their calculations to the actual costs of various specific IT solutions and how they are managed.

“I think it’s a little bit cheeky to talk in terms of long durations,” says Riggs. “The original USP in the cloud was that you had flexibility. If you really can predict it years in advance, then why not simply go back to the old datacentre? And it’s happening when people are questioning huge cloud costs.”

“Too much inventory is out there and people aren’t properly tracking what they’re actually doing”
Simon Riggs, EDB

Capacity requirements depend on actual volumes of business – and in the past, no one was as worried about the cost of energy. That is why technical problems often occur – such as if a burst happens sooner than a year away and people are running to keep up, says Riggs, suggesting another look at consumption and technology efficiency.

“Really, too much inventory is out there and people aren’t properly tracking what they’re actually doing,” he adds.

Mark Pestridge, senior director – customer experience at colo provider Telehouse, points out that acquiring or building new sites takes years – even just to secure planning permission.

“You have to really build almost floor by floor, suite by suite,” he says. “You’ve just got to continue evaluating what your clients are trying to do and piece it together. It’s like building a jigsaw without all the pieces to start with.”

It can be about ensuring secure interconnection with service providers, telcos, internet peering exchanges and cloud services providers to deliver customer choice, he says. Then it’s about every customer’s different requirements and having the ability to fulfil them more flexibly.

“Yet how do you predict what applications are going to drive [datacentre] adoption?” says Pestridge. “With the way the world is evolving, how can we predict what type of power each rack is going to need? That’s really difficult.”

Adam Bradshaw, commercial director at colo provider ServerChoice, notes that, to an extent, we have all been here before, with the 2008 financial crisis causing a similar move away from on-premise, and again during the pandemic.

“We are seeing a similar thing with this huge exponential increasing of energy costs as well,” he says. “Stuff in AI, with autonomous vehicles, is very power-hungry. They will quite happily take in excess of 20kW of rack, no problem. For more traditional lower-powered hardware, customers just want it somewhere safe.”

Datacentre operators tend to do well in times of major crisis, says Bradshaw. Seen as “safe” places, this can encourage hikes in power densities and pushes to reduce prices and power consumption. Yet so much is dependent on the customer.

Bradshaw recommends a better view of customer requirements in the discovery process. “How old is X piece of kit, what do you want to do with it and how long do you expect to run it for? What does the customer business expect to look like in 12, 24 or 36 months’ time?” he says.

“Drill down into those bits and work out what’s best. But that requires that the prospect to really kind of play ball and work with us and be open to discussing these things.”

Jonathan Bridges, chief innovation officer at cloud services provider Exponential-e, suggests pay-as-you-go, consumption-based wholesale cloud models do not necessarily require much capacity planning, barring trending analysis of customers and the analysis of private, hybrid, or multi-cloud capabilities to keep costs down and boost sustainability.

Get ‘really smart’

He agrees that service providers and datacentres both need to get “really smart” about discovering the patterns in data, in storage and beyond to profile specific customer requirements in more detail.

“We need to be more predictive, looking further around at estate, infrastructure, what’s running in the datacentre, how that will evolve over time and affect capacity,” says Bridges.

That also means continually monitoring utilisation, feeding that more into historical trending, and making more use of descriptive and diagnostic analytics to make decisions, he points out.

“As we advance that, maybe more predictive analytics to try and model what will happen,” says Bridges. “The third thing is take stock of the contracts that you have, and try and do some analysis for when they refresh those contracts. Ask: what is that footprint going to look like?”

Erich Sanchack, chief operating officer at Digital Realty, reveals a focus on supplier-managed inventory agreements with tier-one and tier-two suppliers.

“However, it’s not an easy job, requiring commitment to standards that many providers are not able to establish,” says Sanchack. “Moreover, multi-year planning doesn’t insulate providers from regulatory and external governing factors, which can evolve at the drop of a hat.”

“Multi-year planning doesn’t insulate providers from regulatory and external governing factors”
Erich Sanchack, Digital Realty

Simon Bennett, chief technology officer at cloud provider Rackspace, notes that hyperconverged infrastructures are “packing things in” already. Also, the rise of liquid and immersive cooling to manage power densities brings further considerations.

Will building structures cope with the weight and concentration of the racks, and what will that more robust footprint cost?

“You may have to use new facilities and less physical space,” says Bennett. “Then you need a lot of power to go into that small space. If there’s 100kW per rack, suddenly 20 racks is 2MW.”

Several physically smaller facilities might work better than a “massive” datacentre with empty space but where you have used up all the power – yet negatively impacting sustainability and power consumption while increasing reliance on networking and interconnect, he says.

“Whatever capacity you’ve got, you want to drive it hard,” says Bennett. “You don’t want to leave it idle just burning electricity and incurring costs. It’s essential to do your own analytics on your demand profile.

“A lot of people still rely on spreadsheets. You need your own business intelligence around datacentre capacity. Overall, it’s probably about flexibility.”

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Microsoft Teams is finally fixing this ear-splitting annoyance




Microsoft Teams is finally fixing this ear-splitting annoyance
Four people in a meeting room video conferencing with four remote participants.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

One of the most irritating (and slightly painful) parts of joining a Microsoft Teams call could soon be fixed by a new update.

The video conferencing service is a popular choice for many companies, meaning calls with large numbers of participants joining at the same time, and from the same location (such as a meeting room) are a common occurrence. 

However, often when multiple people join a meeting in the same room, a feedback loop is created, which causes echo, which in most cases quickly escalates to howling – with Microsoft likening the noise to when a musician holds the mic too close to a loudspeaker.

Teams’ howling

Fortunately, a new fix is coming for Microsoft Teams users. In its entry in the official Microsoft 365 roadmap (opens in new tab), the new “Ultrasound Howling Detection” describes how it aims to prevent this noise for users on Windows and Mac across the world.

Microsoft says that the update should mean if multiple users on laptops join from the same location, it will share with the user that another Teams Device is detected in their vicinity and is already joined with audio to the current meeting. 

If a user has already joined with their audio on, Microsoft Teams will automatically mute the mic and speakers of any new the person who then joins the call, hopefully putting an end to the howling and screeching feedback.

Thankfully, the update is already listed as being in development, with an expected general availability date of March 2023, so users shouldn’t have to wait too long to enjoy.

The news follows a number of recent updates largely aimed around improving the audio quality on Microsoft Teams calls using AI and machine learning.

The new updates are the result of using a machine learning model trained on 30,000 hours of speech samples, and include echo cancellation, better adjusting audio in poor acoustic environments, and allowing users to speak and hear at the same time without interruptions.

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Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK’s leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he’s not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.

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Shazam! Fury of the Gods trailer breakdown: 6 thing you might have missed




Shazam! Fury of the Gods trailer breakdown: 6 thing you might have missed
Shazam points at someone off camera in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam! Fury of the Gods lands in theaters on March 17.
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The final trailer for Shazam! Fury of the Gods has debuted online – and it looks even more charming, funnier, frenetic, and darker than its predecessor.

Shazam’s sequel flick arrives in theaters worldwide on March 17, so it’s about time we were given another look at the forthcoming DC Extended Universe movie (read our DC movies in order guide to find out where it’ll fit in that timeline). Luckily, Warner Bros. has duly obliged. Check it out below:

Okay, there’s some messy CGI and a slightly corny vibe about Shazam 2. But hey, the first problem can be ironed out before the superhero film takes flight, while the latter is part of what makes this movie series spellbinding (see what we did there?).

But we digress – you’re here because you want to find out what you missed from Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ new trailer. Below, we’ve pointed out six things you might have overlooked. So, what are you waiting for? Shout “Shazam!” and let’s dive in.

1. Who are the Daughters of Atlas?

Kalypso hands Hespera the wizard's staff in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

New movie, new villains. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

For a film centered around Shazam, we don’t actually see the titular superhero appear in the official trailer for the first 20 seconds.

Instead, we get another glimpse at Fury of the Gods‘ villains, aka the Daughters of Atlas. The powerful trio comprises the power-hungry Hespera (Helen Millen), dragon-riding Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Athena (Rachel Zegler), the latter of whom seems particularly torn about how the sisters are going about their business.

So, why are they gunning for Shazam and his superpowered foster siblings? Essentially, when Billy Batson was gifted his abilities by Djimon Hounsou’s wizard in the film film (available now on HBO Max), one of those powers was the Stamina of Atlas. The Daughters of Atlas aren’t too happy about their father’s ability being passed down to a child, so they want to take back what is theirs – and they’ll do it so by any means necessary.

2. Mythological monsters

A dragon prepares to breathe fire at one of Shazam's fellow heroes in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam isn’t the only person taking flight in Fury of the Gods. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Shazam’s first DCEU outing featured some horror-imbued creatures in the form of the Seven Deadly Sins. How, then, do you go about topping (or, at the very least) matching what came before? Throw in a bunch of myth-based monsters, of course.

Kalypso’s imposing dragon is the most notable inclusion. It feature prominently throughout the trailer, and we even get an amusing Game of Thrones reference from Shazam – “Hey, Khaleesi!” – in the movie. Hey, Warner Bros. loves to mention its suite of IPs in as many of its films as possible.

But Kalypso’s wyvern isn’t the only fairy-tale-based beast we see. Minotaurs, griffons, and demonic unicorns are just three of the other monsters who’ll turn up in Fury of the Gods. Basically, don’t expect this to be an easy fight for Shazam and company to save the world.

3. You can’t get the staff these days

Hespera uses the wizard's staff as Kalypso looks on in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

“So I just point it and then what?” (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Saving earth from a new titanic threat will be even harder when Shazam’s adoptive family are stripped of their powers, too. And it seems that the staff, which was wielded by Hounsou’s wizard in the first movie, is the key to giving and taking those abilities away.

In 2019’s Shazam!, the titular hero gave powers to his foster siblings to help him combat the Seven Deadly Sins and Doctor Sivana. They’ve still got those power in Fury of the Gods, too, but they won’t have them for long, based by what the trailer suggests.

The footage shows Freddy Freeman and Mary Bromfield being drained of their abilities by the Daughters of Atlas at various points. The trio are using the wizard’s staff to rob the teens of their powers, so it’s clearly of major importance to the movie’s main players. 

Later, we see Shazam wielding it – not before he asks the wizard to take his powers back, mind you, when he becomes convinced he can’t defeat the Daughters of Atlas. Anyway, Shazam’s brandishing of the staff suggests he needs it to boost his own abilities if he’s going to defeat the movie’s antagonists and give his siblings their powers back. Expect the staff to play a vital role in Fury of the Gods‘ plot, then.

4. Prison break

Djimon Hounsou's wizard blows som magic dust out of a prison window in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Time to break out, Mr. Wizard. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

In order to get the wizard’s staff, it seems the Daughters of Atlas go after Hounsou’s magic wielder to obtain it.

We see Hounsou’s character imprisoned at various points, including a shot of Hespera chastising him for giving the power of the gods to Billy, Freddy, and company. “You ripped it from our father’s core,” she tells him, which implies Hounsou’s wizard might not be as mighty and heroic as we were led to believe.

Anyway, Hounsou’s wizard interacts with Shazam later in the trailer, so he clearly escapes captivity. Whether he does so alone, or he enlists Shazam’s help – does that magic-infused dust, which he sends through his prison cell window, have something to do with it? – is unclear. Regardless, we’ll see Hounsou’s character break out at some stage.

5. Is that you, Doctor Strange?

Shazam flies past some rotating buildings in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Where have we seen this kind of aesthetic before? (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Remember when we said Zegler’s Athena doesn’t seem as keen to destroy earth as her sisters? That’s because, at the 1: 14 mark, we see her use her powers with a uncertain look on her face. You wouldn’t look like that if you were convinced you were doing the right thing, would you? 

Based on the fact she’s pushed away by Kalypso (using the staff no less), seconds later, it seems she’ll be swapping sides at some stage.

Interestingly, it seems the wizard’s staff can do more than give or take a person’s powers away. One perceived ability certainly has an air of the Doctor Strange/Marvel-based mystic arts about them. Just look at the Escher-style nature of how the scenery bends and folds in on itself when Athena is pushed back, and when Shazam evades numerous buildings at the 1: 44 mark. We’d be very surprised if DC and Warner Bros. didn’t take a leaf out of the MCU’s book with such an aesthetic.

6. Light the way

Shazam prepares to fight Kalypso and her dragon in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

A yellow bolt out of the blue. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Shazam and his fellow superheroes get a costume upgrade in Fury of the Gods. The group’s threads are more streamlined and less plastic-looking this time around, which is pleasing to see.

Fans had been worried, though, that these suits wouldn’t feature one of the first movie’s most underrated (if somewhat tacky) aspects: the glowing lightning bolt on Shazam’s chest. Shazam’s costume in the 2019 movie was manufactured in a way that allowed the bolt to physically light up, avoiding the problem of having to add awkward lighting effects during the post-production phase.

Thankfully, Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ official trailer confirms that Shazam’s lightning bolt will glow. However, given the sleeker look of the costumes this time around, it appears that the illumination effect has been added in post. Regardless of how it’s been implemented, we’re just glad it’s a feature that’s been retained.

For more DCEU-based coverage, find out where we placed 2019’s Shazam! in our DC movies ranked article. Additionally, read up on the best superhero films of all-time or check out how to watch the Batman movies in order.

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As TechRadar’s entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You’ll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot (opens in new tab).

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.

Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.

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You can lock Chrome incognito tabs on Android now. Bring it to the PC!




You can lock Chrome incognito tabs on Android now. Bring it to the PC!

Chrome logo on a phone with a lock image over it

Image: Deepanker Verma / Pexels

Author: Alaina Yee
, Senior Editor

Alaina Yee is PCWorld’s resident bargain hunter—when she’s not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she’s scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.

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