Operators brace for expanding sustainability requirements

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The Uptime Institute have released their 12th Annual Global Data Center Survey, which reveals an industry that is growing, dynamic and increasingly resilient, but still working to address increasing pressure for sustainability progress and reporting, continuing staffing shortages, supply chain delays, costly outages and other complex challenges.

“The global digital infrastructure sector continues to enjoy strong growth and expansion, despite the many obstacles operators are facing today,” said Andy Lawrence, executive director of research, Uptime Institute Intelligence. “We have seen the industry invest in increased resiliency and reliability, but there is still work to be done when it comes to improving efficiency, environmental sustainability, outage prevention, staffing pipelines and more.”

Uptime’s annual Global Data Center Survey is the largest and most comprehensive in the digital infrastructure industry, providing detailed insights into the digital critical infrastructure landscape and a sense of its future trajectory.

Key findings from the 2022 report

Among the key findings of the report is that fact that many data centre operators are unprepared for mounting sustainability requirements and regulations. Most respondents say they report on overall data centre power use and power usage effectiveness (PUE), but many still are not tracking critical environmental metrics. Although 63 per cent of operators believe authorities in their region will require them to publicly report environmental data in the next five years, just 37 per cent collect and report carbon emissions data (a slight increase over 33 per cent in 2021) and only 39 per cent currently report their water use (a 12 per cent drop compared to 2021). New laws, standards, and requirements will force operators to address these gaps and establish more stringent sustainability tracking and reporting practices in the coming years.

The average annual PUE reported in 2022 was 1.55. This represents a slight improvement over the 2021 average of 1.57, which is consistent with the trend of marginal PUE gains Uptime has observed annually since 2014. Going forward, achieving substantial data centre efficiency improvements will require a new focus on IT efficiency, along with metrics to track and report progress.

Data centre owners and operators are also making significant investments in the resiliency of their physical infrastructure, with about 40 per cent of respondents reporting increased redundancy levels at their primary data centres in the past three to five years. Power and cooling systems have received similar attention, with a third of operators upgrading either or both.

The share of all outages costing operators over $1 million has reached 25 per cent, a significant increase from 15 per cent in 2021. In 2022, 60 per cent of operators reported experiencing an outage (regardless of severity) in the past three years — down from 69 per cent in 2021 and 78 per cent in 2020. Although the data indicates a trend toward improved outage rates, the frequency of outages is still much too high and with more than two-thirds now costing operators upwards of $100,000, the consequences are getting worse.

As the perception of improved visibility into cloud operational resiliency grows, organisations are more likely to trust the cloud for mission-critical workloads. In 2022, just 63 per cent of operators are not placing mission-critical workloads into a public cloud, a substantial drop from almost 75 per cent in 2019. That trust might be misplaced, given that more than one-third of respondents report that public cloud availability zone outages (which are relativity common) would cause significant performance issues.

Three-quarters of vendors project year-over-year revenue growth in 2022 despite reporting dampened revenues due to persistent COVID-induced supply chain issues. Nearly half of respondents involved with data centre construction have suffered significant delays (or other events) in their supply chains, while one-third have experienced moderate issues.

Finally, over half (53 per cent) of data centre operators report difficulty finding qualified employees in 2022 — up from 47 per cent in 2021 and 38 per cent in 2018. And 42 per cent of respondents report issues with staff being hired away (in most cases to data centre competitors) – a massive increase over just 17 per cent in 2018, which demonstrates the growing challenge of employee retention throughout the sector.

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