The signs are increasing that the metaverse is happening, with the promise of much more to come. Companies, however, have work to do before they can fully leverage this new iteration of the internet. The metaverse will require extensive compute power, and as a result, a proliferation of data centers. Data centers as we currently know them are not ready to handle this level of compute power to deliver the full range of experiences anticipated by the metaverse – not to mention enough engineers, designers and network admins to keep it running.
As it currently stands, global data creation is projected to grow at a compounding annual growth rate of 23% by 2025. This rate of growth has the potential to outpace the growth of data center capacity over the same time frame. The world’s data centers already represent one percent of the world’s electricity use. Although the industry has achieved incredible efficiency improvements over the past decade, it’s unclear if those efficiency gains can continue to offset data center energy demands in the years to come.
Think of the worlds that will exist in the metaverse. Every environment, object, and avatar in the metaverse will reside digitally in a data center. Consequently, the metaverse will catalyze the adoption of edge computing as a key infrastructure strategy in order to drive
that is needed to drive the evolution of metaverse – enabling its full potential and allowing providers to scale their offerings sustainably.
High-capacity IT infrastructure is needed to support the expectations of the metaverse. That’s why business leaders should be hyper-focused on data center modernization and expansion, which starts by both evaluating and understanding the current infrastructure in place and implementing frameworks to measure their environmental impact.
For example, Meta has outlined a data center in the Netherlands to host a portion of the metaverse in Europe with an expected energy consumption of 1,380 gigawatt-hours per year. This single data center would consume nearly half as much energy as all the data centers in the Netherlands combined. For a data center of this magnitude to gain approval, it must be built in the most sustainable way that our current technology allows.
The data center industry has unique characteristics, such as high energy intensity, rapid growth, and large power and water consumption. A commitment to ESG programs, and the standardized metrics to help with adoption, require investment in technologies and tools that will ensure efficient and sustainable long-term data center operations. To address this challenge, Schneider Electric proposes five categories, which include 23 key metrics for data center operators who are in the Beginning, Advanced and Leading stages of their sustainability journey.
In addition to physical and digital infrastructure, the industry’s talent shortage poses a barrier for companies aiming to capitalize on opportunities the metaverse will present. Research detailed within the Uptime Institute Annual Data Center Survey 2021 estimates that staff requirements will grow globally from about 2.0 million full-time equivalents in 2019 to nearly 2.3 million in 2025. Further, 32 percent of respondents reported having difficulty retaining staff, with 20 percent being hired by competitors. Compounding the issue, 47 percent of data center businesses seem to be having difficulty just finding qualified candidates for open jobs. The human workforce will be critical to standardize, engineer, deploy and maintain the expanding IT infrastructure.
Employees are re-evaluating what is most important to them when it comes to work, life and the balance of both. In order to capitalize on metaverse opportunities, companies must be able to recruit and retain precious qualified and motivated talent. A positive solution for effective hiring includes ample learning opportunities supported by deliberate professional programs. Focusing on the latest technology, and its role in prioritizing sustainability appeals to the rising workforce. Digital tools for monitoring, managing, and maintaining IT infrastructure allow for a work life balance component to the employee’s mission of ensuring uptime in the data center.
As companies make this shift to the metaverse, this resulting demand for more computing power will drive operators to rethink data center design, operation, staffing and maintenance. The next generation of the internet has been ushered in, and the next generation of sustainable data centers are not far behind.