Too many bytes and not enough bricks for datacenters
More than 3,000 needed to meet demand, and that won't be easy, says Aggreko
The European datacenter industry is facing issues meeting the growing demand for capacity with materials and heavy equipment to build sites in short supply, among other factors.
A report produced by power generator supplier Aggreko [PDF] claims that demand is outstripping supply in the datacenter market, but there are a number of barriers to getting facilities built on schedule, such that the majority of contractors are having to extend timelines in response.
The report cites UK real estate services company Savills which claimed that there is an insufficient pipeline of datacenter development planned in Europe over the next three years to meet the forecast increase in demand. It gauged that more than 3,000 new sites will be needed by the middle of the decade to meet the expected requirements for data storage and processing.
Achieving this number will be challenging, according to Aggreko, not least because construction firms face numerous issues that are causing delays. These include a shortage of heavy machinery due to high levels of demand from competing industries, getting connected to the power grid, and a shortage of skilled labor and raw materials.
Other factors mentioned include increasing scrutiny being given to the building's embodied carbon, which causes holdups if suppliers are unable to provide sustainability credentials, plus opposition to datacenter developments from local communities can lead to legal disputes that halt construction indefinitely.
Across the European market, the UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Sweden are typically facing delays to datacenter projects of up to two months, the report states. In other countries such as France and Norway, the typical delay lasts for a few weeks.
The report's findings come from a survey of 700 professionals including engineers, design and energy consultants and facilities managers in seven European economies; the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.
Across some of these areas, access to the grid was said to be more important than the cost of electricity when choosing a location for a new datacenter, although in Germany, France and Netherlands, the cost of the land was said to be the deciding factor.
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When it comes to adopting renewable energy sources for datacenters, the lack of relevant skills was again cited as a leading issue, along with the ability of such sources to meet demand and the risks associated with switching.
According to the report, ways to avoid delays caused by supply chain disruption include making spot purchases to meet short-term demand, using temporary hire equipment such as generators, as well as holding a larger equipment inventory and just extending completion deadlines. Given current demand, this will soon become unsustainable, creating further problems later, the report states.
Aggreko suggests bridging solutions such as creating temporary data halls built at construction sites in order to mitigate the impact of delays. This can allow the owner to commission equipment and continue a build simultaneously, minimizing the time it takes to get servers online and the final structure completed.
The expectation for contractors to build more sites on time and to specification will become greater as time goes on, and demand continues to outpace supply.
However, Aggreko's Global Sector Head for Datacenters, Billy Durie, said that market disruptions, rising costs, and regulatory pressures mean that challenges outside of the contractor's control are jeopardizing project schedules.
The company said that responsive suppliers will be key to meeting demand without further impacting costs. It isn't necessarily about alternative procurement models, Aggreko claims, but working with businesses that understand the datacenter market and what is needed to bring new facilities online. ®