Uptime Institute Forecasts: Strong Global Data Center Industry Growth

Andy Lawrence, Executive Director of Research at Uptime Institute Intelligence
“The global digital infrastructure sector continues to enjoy strong growth and expansion, despite the many obstacles data center operators are facing today,” said Andy Lawrence, Executive Director of Research at Uptime Institute Intelligence.

The 12th annual Global Data Center Survey released by Uptime Institute reveal a sector that is expanding, dynamic, and becoming more robust, but is nevertheless battling with issues like persistent workforce shortages, supply chain delays, expensive outages, and other difficult problems.

“The global digital infrastructure sector continues to enjoy strong growth and expansion, despite the many obstacles data center operators are facing today,” said Andy Lawrence, Executive Director of Research at Uptime Institute Intelligence.

“We’ve seen the industry invest in increased resiliency and reliability, but there’s still work to be done when it comes to improving efficiency, environmental sustainability, outage prevention, staffing pipelines and more.”

Public Cloud, Sustainability, Recruiting Staff

Uptime Institute’s annual Global Data Center Survey provides detailed insights into the digital critical infrastructure landscape and a sense of its future trajectory. Key findings from the 2022 report include:

  • Operators’ confidence in public cloud is on the rise, despite ongoing outage risks – Organizations are more willing to trust the cloud for mission-critical workloads as perceptions of increased visibility into cloud operational resilience rise. Just 63% of operators, down significantly from around 75% in 2019, do not use a public cloud for mission-critical workloads in 2022. Given that more than a third of respondents claimed that public cloud availability zone failures, which are very frequent, would result in serious performance problems, this faith could be mistaken.
  • Data center equipment vendors optimistic despite demand pressures and lingering supply chain problems – Despite reporting lower sales because of ongoing supply chain problems brought on by COVID-19, 75% of suppliers predict year-over-year revenue increase in 2022. One-third of respondents who were engaged in the building of data centers reported having just minor problems, while almost half reported severe delays (or other incidents) in their supply chains.
  • Many data center operators are unprepared for mounting sustainability requirements and regulations – The majority of respondents claim to report on PUE and total data center power usage, yet many still do not monitor important environmental parameters. Only 37% of operators collect and report carbon emissions data (a slight increase over 33% in 2021), and only 39% currently report their water use (a 12% decrease compared to 2021). This is despite the fact that 63% of operators believe authorities in their region will require them to publicly report environmental data within the next five years. In the upcoming years, operators will be compelled by new laws, regulations, and standards to close these gaps and set up more rigorous sustainability tracking and reporting procedures.
  • PUE progress is in stasis for now and future efficiency gains must focus on IT power – PUE, or average annual power usage effectiveness, was 1.55 in 2022. This reflects a small increase above the 2021 average of 1.5, which is consistent with the trend of minor PUE improvements Uptime Institute has noticed every year since 2014. Future data center efficiency improvements will necessitate a fresh emphasis on IT efficiency as well as metrics to monitor and report success.
  • More operators are investing to bolster data center resiliency – A little more than 40% of respondents reported improved redundancy levels at their principal data centers in the last three to five years, indicating that data center owners and operators are making considerable investments in the resilience of their physical infrastructure. Similar attention has been paid to the power and cooling systems, with one-third of operators improving one or both.
  • Outages are becoming more expensive and are still far too frequent – The percentage of all outages costing operators more than $1 million has increased to 25% from 15% in 2021, a considerable rise. 60 percent of operators reported an outage (regardless of severity) in the previous three years in 2022, down from 69 percent in 2021 and 78 percent in 2020. Although the data shows a trend toward decreasing outage rates, the frequency of outages is still excessive, and the repercussions are increasing worse with more than two-thirds of them now costing operators more than $100,000.
  • Problems attracting and retaining qualified staff are worsening – Compared to 47% in 2021 and 38% in 2018, more than half (53%) of data center operators report difficulty recruiting competent staff in 2022. Additionally, 42% of respondents mention problems with personnel being recruited away (often to rival data center companies), a sharp rise from only 17% in 2018 and evidence of the industry’s rising employee retention concern.

About the Survey

The annual Global Data Center Survey by Uptime Institute is carried out online and by email. The survey for this year was conducted in H1 2022, and comments from almost 800 data center owners and operators that oversee infrastructure at the biggest IT companies in the globe are included. Insights from 700 data center vendors, architects, and consultants from across the world are also included.