The digital infrastructure industry has grown exponentially in the past few decades and especially in the past couple of years. The Global Data Center Survey results of 2021 by Uptime Institute has been published for the 11th straight year. This industry level survey examines the IT infrastructure sector from various angles to paint a picture of its current state and to foresee the future to a certain extent. The data captured offers a unique and complex view as it takes into consideration the operational performance attributed to various metrics like efficiency, sustainability practices, capital spending, technology adoption, cloud usage, staffing, trends in capital growth and others. The practices and experiences of IT and data center managers along with their engineering and equipment suppliers form the core of the data collected. Let us delve into the main aspects of this data center industry report for a better understanding.
Focus on sustainability
The rise in the demand and subsequent upgrading of data centers with higher capacities have led to concerns on sustainability and the use of resources. The global data center industry is under the scrutiny of customers, environmental groups, media and even government officials and policymakers. Sustainability and environmental concerns are becoming top priority for C-level executives at these data center corporations along with their equipment manufacturers. Many engineering and equipment manufacturers have responded by changing their approach and raw materials used in production.
Fewer outages but high severity
This report highlights a very interesting fact about the IT infrastructure industry when it comes to reducing downtime and managing its impact. The implementation of upgraded systems and processes has improved performance and reliability. But at the same time the few outages which occur often lead to a greater impact in terms of cost, time and business reputation. Many customers and regulators are concerned with these severe impacts and often question the burden of workload on a limited number of large sites.
Some attribute this major shift in fewer outages to the Covid-19 pandemic as the whole world altered and adjusted itself to the new digital world. The amount of IT activity skyrocketed in the past couple of years which has led to a few data center outages and system downtime. Most of these are minor system issues and solving them takes no time. The other major half contributes to the high impact and cost in terms of time and brand value for businesses.
One significant finding of the global data center survey is that adequate staffing prevent outages. Not following the best practices by the IT staff is yet another cause for service disruption. Data center and IT managers are responsible for preventing system downtime and any failure. Most outages are avoided by investing in training and implementing the best practices of the industry. Nearly 4 out of 5 respondents have confirmed that usually it is human error which leads to a system breakdown. When the data is examined, it points towards two common issues – incorrect processes/procedures and failure to follow the existing procedures. A lack of proper staffing and under-investment by the management often leads to system outage and downtime. With an increased investment in management, training and improved process implementation, the frequency of outage can be reduced drastically.
Exponential growth but rising concerns
The data center industry is growing at an exponential rate and will continue in the following years to come. Improved, enlarged capacity, better system run-time and fewer outages will help maintain its rapid expansion. Respondents of this survey comprising mostly of data center managers, engineering/equipment manufacturers/vendors confirm that. They say that most businesses are spending at or above normal levels of capital investment. Majority agree that in the next 3 to 5 years capital investment & spending on data centers is to rise considerably.
Despite the increased demand and growth, the data center industry has its own share of rising concerns. The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, extreme weather, and political instability at the international level have affected global supply chains. This has resulted in shortage of raw materials needed to produce chips, semiconductors and other electronic parts. The manufacturers and suppliers are stressing out in these challenging times. They predict that the disruption in supply chains will affect capital expenditure and availability of IT equipment and services.