Gordon Moore’s prediction over 50 years ago that the power of microelectronic chips will double every two years faces continued scrutiny by commentators who suggest it is coming to an end. However, his argument continues to be an engine driving innovation in the data centre sector.
It can be summarised that with more transistors in each microchip, the cheaper each one gets, fuelling commercial incentives to continually increase microchip space. In turn, data centres need to be increasingly efficient to handle ever-increasing volumes of information, necessitating upgrades and retrofitting of existing racks, alongside building new facilities. That is according to Greger Ruud, data centre specialist at Aggreko, who also says that, despite the debate over its continued relevance, Moore’s Law should be taken as a guiding principle of continued data innovation over the coming years.
In this spirit, the challenges of implementing new equipment and innovations, whether it be microprocessor capacity or hyperscaling infrastructure, pose serious considerations for the procurement of new equipment across the industry.
The benefits of increased transistor density are evident, from our modes of communication to how a modern workplace operates. As device processing power improves, in line with Moore’s Law, facilities are set to enhance efficiencies throughout their operations. According to a recent report by Arizton, Europe’s rack power density is expected to grow from an average of six to eight kilowatts (kW) in 2021, to between 12 and 15 kW in 2027 due to increasing hyperscale infrastructure deployment.
Continually rising demand for data, however, combined with ongoing improvement in computer performance under Moore’s Law, may cause a ‘bottleneck’ in facility construction if supply chain disruption continues.
Supply chain strain
Guided by Moore’s Law, the rapid development of computer speed and capabilities, and new cooling, power, and testing requirements, is putting the data sector under strain as stakeholders look to upgrade existing facilities, argues Ruud. In light of this, it is not uncommon to see facilities that were brought online as early as 18 months ago needing to upgrade entire halls to adopt new, high-performing technologies.
The updating of existing data centres, and the construction of new ones, is creating a situation where the supply chain is continually chasing evolving equipment measures and developing demand. This is giving rise to a ‘bottleneck’ in the supply chain due to the scarcity of load bank testing and utility provision solutions available. With September Statista reports demonstrating data consumption growth, and real estate experts JLL predicting persistent supply chain delays causing delivery challenges into 2024, Ruud warns of a potential ‘bottleneck’ in construction if action is not taken.
“The ongoing boom in worldwide data centre markets is undoubtedly something to be welcomed, but it does give rise to additional challenges construction stakeholders need to plan around,” says Ruud. “Specifically, the supply chain must keep pace with this level of growth and improvement in computer performance, which is putting pressure in existing data centre apparatus.
“A lack of availability for key equipment, including solutions required for load bank testing and utility provision, is causing a bottleneck at the least opportune time. This supply chain disruption must be worked around if the market is to continue meeting ongoing demand and accounting for increasingly powerful computers being developed and used by data consumers.”
With the potential risk of financial repercussions and reputational damage resulting from disruptions to construction and refurbishment projects, the importance of navigating around this should not be understated.
With refurbishment works a key priority across Europe, and taking immovable project completion deadlines into account, the need for new strategies and thought around equipment procurement is becoming pressing. According to Ruud, facility construction stakeholders should explore alternative approaches to the ongoing scarcity of load bank testing and utility provision solutions, if further disruption is to be avoided.
“Issues experienced sourcing key equipment is already well-known to the market, with these challenges expected to continue into the short- to medium-term,” he explains. “Consequently, those involved in retrofitting existing facilities cannot afford to stand still and be subject to delays that may result in additional financial costs and reputational damage
Supply chain difficulties mean stakeholders must ultimately explore alternative approaches to ensure construction deadlines are met. In light of this, testing, power generation and temperature control provision must therefore be immediately available, especially if energy provision requirements are continually changing in line with Moore’s Law. To avoid the financial repercussions of delayed projects, stakeholders must therefore develop and update comprehensive contingency plans that take supply chain strain into account. However, with energy provision requirements continually changing, suppliers must act to place the industry on the front-foot by upgrading their fleet and ensuring they can aptly support data centre managers.
Stakeholders must also have easy access to nearby equipment supplier depots to provide swift support with services and solutions. Aggreko, for example, operates a Europe-wide network and is continuing to open new premises, with sites in Stockholm and Tananger having recently open their doors to support the rapidly growing Nordic markets.
“Testing, power generation, and temperature control provision must be immediately available to facilitate this boom, especially if energy provision requirements are continually changing in line with Moore’s Law,” says Ruud. “Temporary equipment hire could provide contractors with an effective way of keeping this disruption to a minimum, and I would encourage key stakeholders to get in touch with their suppliers and explore this option.”
Additionally, as the pressure to upgrade and retrofit existing facilities grows, the provision of standby power systems to support halls while permanent infrastructure is offline continues to be a key focus. By using generators powered with Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), a greener option that can replace diesel in existing units, the sector can ensure resilience, while achieving its energy and sustainability targets.
“The route by which the data centre space will grow cannot be predicted, however, managers can still gear towards industry change,” concludes Ruud. “By incorporating an agile and forward-thinking procurement strategy, facilities can swiftly access key equipment to ensure the supply chain can keep pace in a fast-moving sector.”