Data centre construction: what lies ahead?

From April 2021 to April 2022, internet users worldwide increased by almost 200 million. That brings the global number of internet users to around 5 billion — nearly two-thirds of the planet’s population. Needless to say, there’s a scramble to build more data centres to meet this growing demand. 

While the post-pandemic recovery, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis may be slowing down supply chains, data centre construction is still on the rise.

Who’s building what?

AWS, Google and Microsoft own over half of the world’s largest data centres and are building more. But it isn’t just the big boys who are leading the data centre drive. The data centre construction market is seeing significant demand from colos — co-location operators who rent out space to third parties. The biggest names in colos are Equinix, Digital Realty and China Telecom, and with increasing consolidation, over 50% of the colo market is now accounted for by just 15 companies. Colos both big and small are now driving considerable data centre growth. 

What’s happening at the edge?

Traditional data centres are by far the lion’s share of this sector of construction. However, edge data centres are also on the rise — smaller data centres built closer to end-users to reduce latency — with the market expected to be worth $13.5 billion by 2024, which is double what it was worth in 2020. The reasons for this expected rise in edge data centres are varied and include the rise of Cloud computing, the introduction of 5G and expanding online banking services.

There may be trouble ahead

With all this predicted growth, that isn’t to say there aren’t challenges ahead. We’ve already mentioned issues around supply chains, which will hopefully be short-lived. But there are also longer-term concerns around climate change. As governments strive toward carbon-neutral targets and with data centres currently accounting for 1% of global electricity consumption, the days of energy-guzzling data centres will be numbered.  

The industry is already looking at sustainable data centres, which will rely on advances in technology and smart decisions over future data centre locations. Only time will tell if data centre construction can meet growing demands for speedy data processing and net-zero targets. 


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