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2022 Global Data Center Survey: sustainability struggles and staffing shortages

Image: Adobe Stock / Connect world

The findings of Uptime Institute’s latest annual Global Data Center Survey indicate that while the industry is growing, it’s still grappling with sustainability reporting, staffing shortages, supply chain delays and outages.

The annual survey, conducted online and via email, includes responses from around 800 data centre owners and operators, as well as insights from 700 data centre suppliers, designers and advisors across the globe.

With sustainability requirements and regulations on the rise, the survey reported that many data centre operators weren’t fully prepared for an increasingly greener future. Most respondents said that they reported on power use and power usage effectiveness (PUE) – but were still not monitoring wider critical environment metrics.

Despite this, 63% of operators believe that authorities in their region will require them to publicly report environmental data within the next five years. Just 37% currently collect and report carbon emissions data and only 39% report their water use.

The survey found that the average annual PUE reported in 2022 was 1.55 – a slight improvement over the 2021 average of 1.57. “Going forward, achieving substantial data centre efficiency improvements will require a new focus on IT efficiency, along with metrics to track and report progress,” Uptime Institute said in a statement.

Staff shortages were also still proving to be problematic, with 53% of operators reporting difficulty finding qualified employees in 2022 — up from 47% in 2021 and 38% in 2018. A further 42% of respondents reported issues with losing staff, in most cases to competitors, indicating challenges with employee retention.

Despite similar shortages in the supply chain, data centre equipment vendors remained optimistic, with three-quarters predicting year-over-year revenue growth in 2022. However, nearly half of respondents involved with data centre construction said they had suffered significant supply chain delays, and one-third said they have experienced moderate issues.

The survey found that the share of all outages costing operators over $1 million has reached 25%, increasing from 15% in 2021. Despite the fact that, in 2022, the number of operators that reported experiencing an outage within the past three years was down to 60% from 69% in 2021 and 78% in 2020, “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,” Uptime Institute said.

Not surprisingly, the report also found that more operators were investing in the resiliency of their physical infrastructure, with about 40% of respondents reporting increased redundancy levels at their primary data centres in the past three to five years.

“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’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.”

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