With 2024 just around the corner, Terry Storrar, MD at Leaseweb UK, outlines the data centre trends we will see throughout next year and beyond.
Providing the critical infrastructure that powers the digital economy, 2024 will see data centres continue to play a key role in delivering new AI tools to consumers and enterprises. In the past year the mass adoption of AI technology, combined with the emergence of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, has fuelled a surge in demand for data centre space. However, this success has come at a cost.
As data centres initiate more high-power GPUs to support AI, some governments – for example in Singapore – have begun to impose data centre power quotas on utility firms and upping their demands around renewable power requirements. However, this isn’t a challenge solely isolated to regions where limited power availability is a known issue.
Sourcing enough power to cope with the escalating demands created by the growth of AI alongside other technologies – like streaming, gaming and self-driving cars – is set to become a top priority for data centre operators everywhere in the coming year.
Unsurprisingly, escalating demand for data centre capacity combined with a worldwide shortage of power is set to spur new innovations in data centre design and technology as data centre operators strive to meet the increased power density requirements of high-performance computing.
Let’s take a look at what this all means for the data centre sector in 2024.
The journey to improved sustainability
Sustainability will stay firmly in the spotlight next year, and rightly so. Customers are now actively challenging data centre operators and service providers on their green credentials. Meanwhile, government regulations and mandates designed to improve data centre sustainability and energy efficiency visibility continue to proliferate.
In the EU, new regulations setting out sustainability performance standards for data centres by 2025 are prompting the industry to accelerate efforts to reduce energy consumption and increase reliance on sustainable energy.
Meanwhile, the German government has recently drafted new legislation stipulating that data centres commissioned before July 2026 must achieve a PUE of 1.5 from July 2027 and a PUE of 1.3 by 2030. In addition, all data centres must cover half of their electricity consumption from renewable sources by January 2024, increasing to 100% from January 2027. And where Germany leads, expect other governments to follow. This is especially true in the UK where the government is in hot pursuit of a 2050 net zero target.
In 2024 the industry will continue to take small but sure steps towards environmental goals, such as achieving 100% renewable energy use. One thing is for sure, the pursuit of a green agenda is becoming a key competitive differentiator that is driving some in the industry to explore new clean energy sources such as hydrogen.
A growing demand for environmentally friendly services
Gartner has predicted that by 2025, 85% of enterprises will shut down their traditional on-premises data centres. In the UK the introduction of the Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting framework, combined with a huge growth of demand for data and digital services, has prompted more businesses to opt for specialist providers that can support environmentally friendly models such as IaaS and SaaS. Indeed, industry research shows that organisations that move from on-premises systems to IaaS architectures can reduce their energy usage and carbon emissions by up to 65% and 84% respectively.
From a data centre sector perspective, the pursuit of decarbonation represents a key driver for business growth and competitive advantage. By positioning strongly on net zero, data centres can offer their carbon responsible customers value added services that will attract a premium from clients looking for high quality renewable energy. Similarly, they can offer clients customised sustainability reports on their carbon footprint and environmental impact.
In the coming year, the race to ultra energy efficiency will increase in intensity as more customers look to shift to greener data centres.
Private cloud services will continue to gain momentum
Last year saw the need for more predictable and forecastable pricing structures driving a growing number of business decision makers to rethink their reliance on hyperscale public cloud providers.
In the current economic climate, it’s no surprise that more businesses are now choosing highly flexible hybrid and multicloud options. Added to this, many tech leaders now have the skills and confidence that are required to optimise how cloud works best for their business, whether this is fine tuning performance on a daily basis to achieve a balance between cost and flexibility or giving departments more direct control over their own cloud services.
In 2024, expect more organisations to accelerate their multi cloud strategies in a bid to manage their total cost of cloud ownership and gain the freedom to pick and choose the services they need. This move means that data centres will need to be prepared for deep and far-reaching conversations around data privacy and security with customers.
New tech innovations will help further optimise operational efficiency
The emergence of technologies like AI is opening new doors for optimisation and automation that will deliver better cost control and quality for customers. These advances represent a major transformation that is redefining how data centres operate and serve customers.
Today, tools like predictive analytics are already enabling the automation of operations, improved resource management, and enhanced energy and water usage efficiency in line with aggressive sustainability performance targets. AI-based solutions can also deliver insights that improve operational decisions like workload management and capacity planning.
In 2024, expect AI to deliver incremental improvements in areas like data management and, crucially, in managing and sourcing clean energy as data centres learn to apply AI technologies for more efficient and sustainable business operations.