Demand for data center capacity has reached an all-time high, with end-user spending on global data center infrastructure expected to hit $200 billion this year, a 6% increase over 2020 expenditures. Additionally, an announcement from Microsoft regarding a plan to build up to 100 new data centers each year indicates this will only trend upward, and other companies may soon follow suit.
Data center growth necessitates physical space considerations, along with a premium placed on maximizing square footage. To contend with these considerations, colocation data center professionals will need to prioritize the efficient operation of new space to improve their bottom line. Data center leaders will need to find ways to adapt to the rise in demand.
Data Demands Increase
Lifestyle changes prompted by the pandemic fueled increased demand for data centers throughout 2021– and this growth is expected to continue through at least 2024. As remote work solidifies its status as the norm and more activities transition to the digital realm, internet-usage has and will continue to surge, meaning data creation will continue to soar as more users seek cloud-based services.
On top of this, the purchase of internet-of-things (IoT) devices has surged in parallel. The IDC predicts that IoT devices will generate 73.1 zettabytes by 2025, and as capacity currently stands, it would take roughly 1,000 data centers to store one zettabyte. In other words, predicted data storage needs are high and data center operators need to ensure they’re maximizing every square inch of their facilities to both meet current data needs and have the ability to handle those of the future.
Space Considerations and the Expansion of the Data Center
As a result of heightened demand, the data center industry will need to be equipped for storing increasingly large quantities of data. On the surface, a solution for this might appear to be to build more data centers – however, lockdowns in 2020 meant that more than 60% of new data center construction was delayed. Today, although server CPUs are still plentiful, recent supply chain shortages are continuing to worsen the data center construction situation as the industry grapples with sky-high prices for construction materials. In turn, it will likely take years for data center construction to catch up to pre-pandemic levels, which still would not match current demand.
As it is now, data center infrastructure is not prepared to handle larger capacities of data to meet industry needs. Therefore, data center leaders must work to increase capacity within the same building footprint without overheating or scheduling downtime, which is not a simple task. Fortunately, alternative data center solutions may provide some much-needed relief for facility managers.
Solutions for Optimizing Space
Solutions for maximizing space usage in data centers range far and wide, but one key way that data center professionals can make the most of what they have is through modular uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems. Modular UPS systems can help data center leaders scale their operations without dramatically increasing operational expenditures.
Implementing a modular architecture not only allows data centers to grow their capacity, but also improves cost efficiency and employee safety. There are four main benefits associated with modular UPS systems:
1. Smaller footprint: Modular UPS systems offer a smaller footprint through slimmer, taller industrial UPS cabinets.
2. Easy scalability: These systems provide the opportunity for scalability by allowing data centers to add power incrementally. This means that data center capacity can be increased far beyond the original capacity of conventional UPS units.
3. Availability: Modularity enables flexible redundancy for UPS systems from power modules that can be added for increased resiliency and replaced within a few minutes.
4. Employee safety: Modular architecture improves safety by providing third-party verified energized swapping, which greatly reduces the risk of shock and arc flashes.
Overall, modular UPS systems resolve many of the issues that arise when facility managers seek to expand their offerings while also providing additional benefits that are both flexible and reliable. With data centers needing to increase capacity now more than ever, facility managers should consider the shift towards a modular data center.
The influx of demand for data centers as a result of the pandemic and the general trend towards digital transformation has stretched the industry to its limits. Combined with infrastructure issues and space considerations, the accommodation of more data presents a challenge for data center operators. Industry predictions indicate that data growth is not stopping any time soon, so data center leaders will need to quickly find long-term solutions for these changes. Data center leaders will need to think through the long-term impacts of recent digital transformation efforts to ensure they’re ahead of these demands, rather than reacting to them.
Steven Carlini is Vice President of Innovation and Data Center at Schneider Electric.