As data centre demand continues and the need for more capacity increases, there are many things to consider when in the early planning stages of data centre development. While a lot of these depend on the market you're working within, the desired timeline, and the assets available, there are a few key elements that should be considered and evaluated at the start of any project. The below elements will also contribute to selecting the right location for your data centre.
Power Availability + Connectivity
With the typical hyperscale facility now consuming 20-50 MWh of electricity annually, reliable power and connection are essential when thinking about a new data centre facility, as network latency needs to be maintained between each data centre and the areas they serve as you expand.
Understanding the data centre power infrastructure and confirming the power supply will be reliable enough to keep your facility up and running is a crucial part of the planning process. Grid modernisation efforts as part of The Great Grid Upgrade should continue in 2024 in order to meet demand, which will help here. Similarly, determining which on-site electrical generation equipment like generators, solar panels, and wind turbines can be implemented to ensure renewable energy can supplement or entirely replace power from the more comprehensive grid is an important conversation to prioritise as the push for more sustainable power generation continues to gain pace.
Alongside this, it will be necessary to confirm that the location has good Internet connectivity to ensure there is no downtime or disruption to services.
Of course, sustainability continues to be a priority for both existing data centres as regulation evolves and as new facilities are built, and we need to take this into account in the development phase. The recently revised Energy Efficiency Directive in Europe has significantly raised the EU's ambition for energy efficiency. Naturally, this means more attention will be placed on the data centre industry and its expansion. In Germany specifically, they are looking at transposing this directive into national law and are looking at decreasing power usage effectiveness across the country as a priority, further proving sustainable initiatives will continue to be in the spotlight.
From a project development point of view, understanding the compulsory sustainable regulations is key at the start of any project, with the physical location of the facility also determining how much renewable energy you can source. However, the majority of the sustainable measures are typically considered and implemented once the build itself has started. At our first Madrid facility, we will use 100% renewable energy across the data centre, have installed 100KW of solar panels within our roof space and reuse rainwater from green spaces across the plot, all of which have been considered and delivered throughout the lifecycle of the project.
Another matter vital to keep in mind is the rise and evolved use of AI across the globe. Its growth will drive demand for energy and new methods of cooling as more energy-intensive servers, cables and computing take up data centre rack space. While air conditioning systems have been prevalent in the industry to date, the rise of AI will mean technologies like immersion or direct-to-chip cooling will likely need to be considered, which will allow data centres to lower the temperature of server equipment more effectively.
The right people
People are at the heart of the data centre industry and any successful data centre development project. The data centre sector must develop dedicated training programmes that are aligned with emerging trends and technologies in order to foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptation, both for entrants into the industry and those who have been with us for decades.
Gartner predicts that 60% of data centre infrastructure teams will need greater automation and cloud skills by 2027, up from just 30% in 2022. Apprenticeships and similar training initiatives will be essential for creating a workforce that is capable of meeting the challenges of the future and helping the industry sustain its trajectory of growth.
Collaboration is key
As outlined throughout this piece, there are plenty of elements to consider when embarking on a data centre development project, and this list is likely to expand as the industry evolves. Above all, open collaboration and communication between internal and external stakeholders to ensure alignment on objectives, timelines, budgets, and local regulations should be the driving priority at the start and throughout each project and should make for a successful and streamlined project lifecycle.