Data Centers, Energy Management and Lighting, Human Resources, Sustainability/Business Continuity

Survey Shows Widening Range of Challenges for Data Centers

Data center operators are facing stricter regulations and more pressure to reduce energy, along with persistent staffing and supply chain issues, according to Uptime Institute’s 13th Annual Global Data Center survey.

The report shows new technologies potentially presenting a promising way forward, but these often are found lacking in standardization and scalability. While for many organizations, investments in efficiency and resiliency are beginning to pay off, progress has been gradual.

“Our data shows operators grappling with several issues,” said Andy Lawrence, executive director of Uptime Intelligence. “In 2023, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have receded, but other challenges have emerged. Digital infrastructure managers are now most concerned with improving energy performance and dealing with staffing shortfalls, while government regulations aimed at improving data center sustainability and visibility are beginning to require attention, investment, and action.”

Uptime’s Annual Global Data Center survey is the among the largest and longest-running studies in the digital infrastructure sector. This year, it collected responses from more than 850 data center owners and operators and nearly 700 vendors and consultants.

Key findings from the 2023 report include the following:

  • Average global power usage effectiveness (PUE) levels have remained flat for four years. Additional improvements in PUE levels will require significant investment.
  • As more organizations opt for a hybrid approach to IT, the share of enterprise workloads that are run in corporate, on-premises facilities has fallen to below half for the first time and is expected to shrink further.
  • Enterprise operators say data security is the biggest impediment to moving mission-critical workloads to the public cloud. Resiliency and transparency are lesser concerns.
  • Server rack densities are climbing steadily, but slowly. Average rack densities are below 6 kilowatt (kW) per rack; most operators do not have any racks beyond 20 kW. This suggests the widespread use of direct liquid cooling is not imminent.
  • Many operators only collect a limited amount of sustainability-related data and will struggle to meet emerging sustainability reporting requirements, or in turn, the requirements of some customers and the public.
  • Most operators believe acceptance of the use of artificial intelligence will grow in data centers, but operators are distrustful of its ability to make reliable operational decisions.
  • Outages:
    • More than half (55%) of operators reported they have had an outage at their site in the past three years, the lowest number yet recorded. This continues a trend of steady improvement.
    • Power outages continue to be cited as the single biggest cause of outages.
  • Staffing:
    • Uptime Intelligence data shows that approximately 8% of the data center workforce are women. In the U.S. (if not all countries), this rate is below that of other male-dominated industries, such as mining and construction.
    • Nearly two-thirds of operators have problems recruiting or retaining staff; however, this figure is not currently growing. The largest skill gaps are in operations, mechanical, and electrical roles.

The exectuive summary of the report is available for download here.

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