Load-shedding’s big cost for South African data centres

Load-shedding costs businesses time and money, and South African data centres are particularly hard hit as they cannot afford any disruption in their electricity supply.

MyBroadband spoke to two of South Africa’s premier data-centre operators, Teraco and Hetzner, which highlighted the challenges they face with load-shedding.

Teraco MD and CFO Jan Hnizdo told MyBroadband that the cost to run a data centre during load-shedding increases by between 50% and 75%.

Hnizdo explained that apart from the cost to run diesel generators, their staff are working double shifts to ensure there are no problems during the load-shedding period.

He explained that with South Africa’s erratic electricity supply, Teraco designed its data centres to use their own power generation as a primary source – with Eskom as a secondary source.

R14,000 in diesel used for a single load-shedding session

Hetzner brand manager Athena Turner echoed Hnizdo’s views and estimated that it costs between 5-7 times more to run a data centre during load-shedding.

These higher costs include around R14,000 in diesel for a single load-shedding session of 2.5 hours, increased frequency of generator maintenance, and staff overtime.

To ensure they are always online, Hetzner’s Samrand data centre has been engineered to run for days without any intervention – thanks to its fuel capacity of 49,000 litres.

“Our diesel generators can run for seven days continually before they’re required to refuel their bulk tanks,” Turner said.

The data centre also has redundant A and B feeds – each with their own isolated diesel generator and UPS.

“In the event of a generator failure, all load will transfer to the alternate feed and generator,” Turner said.

Costs absorbed

Good news for businesses is that both Teraco and Hetzner are absorbing the additional costs associated with load-shedding.

Hnizdo said the current period of load-shedding will have no impact on their pricing, but this can change if load-shedding becomes a permanent occurrence.

Turner said that Hetzner is also able to absorb the additional costs associated with running their data centres off diesel generators.

She did add, however, that while they’re not yet at the point of considering pricing increases, this could change should load-shedding continue to form part of South Africa’s future.

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Load-shedding’s big cost for South African data centres