A new data center industry report from the Uptime Institute found that the data center industry has had to adapt to increasing complexity and challenges such as evolving efficiency and sustainability requirements, rising outage costs, the ongoing workforce shortage, and supply chain interruptions while also experiencing widespread growth.

“The 2021 survey results highlight continued growth within the sector and the many complex challenges data center owners and operators are facing today,” Andy Lawrence, executive director of Research for Uptime Institute, said. “The stakes have never been higher when it comes to outage prevention, environmental sustainability, and overall performance. That’s why organizations must continue to carefully reassess their mission-critical digital infrastructure and operations to minimize service delivery risk and maximize resiliency.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Organizations are not closely tracking their environmental footprint despite the global sustainability push: While the majority of data center owners and operators track both their center’s power usage effectiveness (PUE) and power consumption rates and effectiveness, many operators are not prioritizing vital metrics for improving and reporting sustainability, namely water usage, and carbon emission levels.
  • Staffing shortages continue and AI is not expected to reduce requirements in the near future: The data center industry has seen significant growth, but workforce growth has not kept pace. Roughly half of owners and operators surveyed report difficulty finding skilled candidates. In terms of using AI to reduce staffing needs, the Uptime Institute found that three out of four owners and operators believe AI will reduce their data center staffing needs at some point, but half project this shift is more than five years away.
  • Data center suppliers expect large cloud and internet companies to reshape the supply chain: The report found that nearly one-third of suppliers expect most of their customers will own data centers 20 megawatts or more within five years, and half report that these larger customers often seek projects to be delivered on timelines, budgets, or at scales that prove challenging. Additionally, half of suppliers believe that large data center operators will likely take more control of their custom designs and create their own supply chains to bypass traditional equipment sourcing options in the next three to five years.
  • The number of outages has declined, but the consequences continue to worsen: The percentage of data center owners and operators who reported experiencing some form of outage in the past three years dropped by nearly 10 percent between the 2020 and 2021 surveys. While operators say that just over half of all downtime incidents are fleeting and have few consequences, the remaining half cause substantial financial, operational, and reputational damage.
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.