Keeping pace with rapidly expanding data centre demand in Asia Pacific requires expertise in running facilities efficiently and the ability to secure renewable energy, according to the top executives of Singapore startup Empyrion DC and its parent firm, Seraya Partners
Speaking in the final segment of Mingtiandi’s APAC Data Centre Forum, James Chern, managing partner and chief investment officer of Seraya Partners said he expects major hubs in the region, including Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei to experience energy constraints over the long term, making it even more critical for data centre operators to design for efficiency and secure renewable power sources.
“The ability to bring in more power would generate more revenues, and the ability to use power efficiently would also increase your revenues so the benefit that we have is we have a big in-house engineering team,” Chern said in the interview, which was sponsored by Yardi. “Our goal is actually not just to create a large data centre footprint, but really the most advanced data centres, in Asia and potentially around the world.”
Established by Seraya Partners in late 2021, Empyrion DC has already established facilities in Singapore and Seoul and aims to build a regional portfolio with 300 megawatts of capacity across 10 to 12 assets within the next four to five years, the executives said.
Chern also pointed to the ability to design and develop more advanced data centres as a way to secure more clients in an increasingly competitive APAC market.
‘If we create the most premium advanced data centres then our customers will find that we’re not just a passive facility, we can actually help make their core business more efficient and more competitive as well,” the energy infrastructure veteran said.
After acquiring a 12.5 megawatt data centre in Singapore in late 2021, in August 2022 Empyrion entered the Korean market with a $400 million data centre project in Seoul’s Gangnam district, with groundbreaking for the facility held in June of this year.
To meet growing customer demand, Empyrion DC aims to add more locations in their two existing cities while also planning to enter Japan and Taiwan, as well as emerging markets in Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.
“We’re probably six to nine months out from our number three, number four and possibly five sites in Asia,” said Empyrion DC chief executive Mark Fong, who previously held senior roles with global players including Digital Realty and Equinix.
AI Demand Boost
Adding to the already brisk demand for server capacity in the region is an upswing in requirements driven by artificial intelligence, the two executives said, with Fong pointing to a sudden increase in requirements driven by AI and machine learning applications over the past few months – a trend which he expects to accelerate.
Fong noted that the growing prominence of AI players is placing a premium on data centres able to support the high power density needed to support the computing intensive processes involved.
To help meet the increased server rack density requirements from AI, Fong said Empyrion DC employs liquid cooling technologies and is exploring direct-to-chip cooling while also procuring additional power in other markets.
“We’re built to support the future as opposed to having to retrofit some of our existing legacy data centres to support the new requirements,” he said. “So I think there is a real opportunity for providers like us, Empyrion DC, where we are working closely with our customers in terms of technology, locations and sites that they want to be in.”
Being established as a sustainability focused regional data centre operator helps Empyrion DC to attract both hyperscalers and investors which have committed to net carbon zero targets, Chern noted.
“It’s a huge differentiator and clearly that’s also the future of where the industry is heading. In the past, ESG and sustainability were good to have. Right now clearly it’s a must have,” he said, noting that Empyrion DC’s ongoing green initiatives include installation of solar panels and green walls to help with cooling its data centres.
Chern said that Empyrion plans to tap hydrogen power for its facilities as part of their mission to become the first zero carbon data centres in the region. The former Morgan Stanley executive said the company has been working with several Dutch engineering conglomerates to make this happen.
After setting up Empyrion DC as its first venture in 2021, Singapore-based Seraya expanded its sustainability-focused thesis by investing in an electric vehicle charging network in Taiwan which it launched in May of last year. Later in 2022 the firm followed up by establishing an offshore wind farm vessel operator in September.
Back to Office
The interview with Empyrion DC and Seraya Partners concluded Mingtiandi’s APAC Data Centre Forum for this year, with nearly a thousand industry professionals having watched the five segments in the series live.
MTD TV will return next on 19 October for Mingtiandi’s third annual Office Strategies Forum, with that event series featuring speakers from CPPIB, Phoenix Property Investors, JLL, LaSalle Investment Management and Yardi.
Then on 14 November, Mingtiandi will hold its second annual Singapore Focus Forum at the Conrad Centennial Singapore with speakers from Warburg Pincus, ESR and JLL set to take the stage in front of an in-person audience of more than 200 industry executives.