The global data centre industry has entered a period of massive and accelerating growth, driven by an insatiable demand for data. Data centres form the foundation of our lives, underpinning digital services and infrastructure. As our data needs intensify, so too does the imperative for more and better data centres.
As we approach the end of 2023, we examine the key trends that have driven change in the data centre industry this year, as well as look toward what the future might hold.
Surging demand outpacing supply
The global data sphere is expected to double in size from 2022-2026, and at this rate data centre capacity cannot keep pace. While the major public cloud providers have overwhelming campuses and warehouses full of servers, and colocation facilities can provide outstanding hosting capabilities, compute demands have grown massively over the previous year, largely due to the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Colocation data centers are maxing out in urban locations like London and Manchester, and there are conversations already arising in Europe over DC space soon hitting its breaking point. The cost of rent and property has been a topical issue here in the UK this year, and with the economic outlook for 2024 not being the most optimistic, likely, building new data centres in cities may soon become impractical.
Given the cost constraints associated with building in urban areas, as well as the increasing demand for data centre capabilities, we'll likely see a growth in colocation facilities being built in cost-effective locations outside of urban centres. We've already seen a growth in data centres in the commuter belt, due to the lower risk of fuel shortages and high-speed connectivity, this will likely continue in the new year.
Sustainability becomes ever more important
Data centres currently account for around 1% of global electricity demand, and their energy footprint is ballooning. Governments are responding by tightening environmental regulations around carbon emissions and energy efficiency standards. Companies like Microsoft and Equinix have pledged carbon-neutral or net zero operations. To meet both internal goals and customer demands, providers increasingly have to put sustainability initiatives to the top of the agenda.
There are a variety of ways to do this which will likely become more widely adopted throughout 2024. Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) can be used to power backup generators, and free-cooling technology should be standard practice across all facilities. Not only is energy efficiency better for the planet, but it also means savings can be passed on to customers. As providers look to attract new customers and comply with future regulations, we'll see more sustainability innovation happening in the data centre space.
Savvy providers are already making moves to get ahead of seismic shifts taking place in the data centre space. Those who modernise around sustainability and scalability will separate from the pack and be able to continue the 100% uptime records that so many organisations have come to expect.