The sector is booming and maturing globally — but management challenges lie ahead.
The Uptime Institute recently released its report on the potential outcomes ahead for the datacentre industry, including achieving zero-carbon emissions, reducing dependency on cloud, benefiting from processor innovation and ensuring supply-chain resiliency.
According to the report, the critical digital infrastructure sector continues to expand and attract enviable levels of new investment. In the coming year (and beyond)
promises opportunities but also challenges that only some data centers will be likely to navigate successfully.
Heading into 2022, the mood is — guardedly — more positive. Although the threat of COVID-19 variants persists, the Uptime Institute can nevertheless repeat many of the sentiments in the Five data center trends for 2021: “The critical digital infrastructure sector continues to expand and to attract enviable levels of new investment.
Overall, the critical infrastructure sector has adapted well to the pandemic. Fears of major outages, equipment shortages, huge budgetary overspends and a high loss of available staff have largely dissipated. These problems have been both more chronic and milder than feared — balanced by a strong uptick in demand as more people and services move online and more investment is made in resiliency and automation.
At the beginning of each calendar year, Uptime Institute highlights a shortlist of trends — or predictions — for the year ahead. The Institute tries to avoid stating the obvious or repeating the forecasts of the previous year.
For 2022 its five predictions were unusual in that our confidence level in these predicted trends is not as high as usual, and some are also more contentious. However, the purpose of a prediction (or of highlighting a new trend) is not to be exact, but to provide some insights that may help to inform and guide the industry.
These insights includes:
- Moore’s law resumes — but not for all
Sustained advances in chip technology over the past few decades, along with leaps in networking speeds, have helped the data center industry to grow. This has largely been through increased demand for IT services, but also because of vastly improved power efficiencies.
- Industry consensus on sustainability looks fragile
Pressed by a sense of urgency among scientists and the wider public, and by governments and investors who must fulfil promises made at COP (Conference of the Parties) summits, major businesses are facing ever more stringent sustainability reporting requirements. Big energy users, such as data centers, are in the firing line.
- Data center operators ponder the nuclear option
Data center owners and operators worldwide have long been under pressure to use sustainable power — with little to no carbon emissions. Despite a decade of effort, few data center operators are yet to lay claim to having even one data center that uses entirely carbon-free energy.
- Concerns over cloud concentration risk grow
The demand for cloud computing was already experiencing rapid growth, but this growth accelerated during the pandemic as more businesses and consumers became increasingly dependent on ever-expanding online services. While a public cloud provides a flexible, stable and distributed IT environment, there are growing concerns about its use.
- Supply problems favor standardisation and scale
The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed supply chains globally, resulting in higher prices and increased delivery times for many components. Shortages and delays are likely to persist into 2022 and beyond as demand for IT, and for new data center capacity, continues to increase.