Despite the world’s successful containment of the COVID-19 pandemic as we near the end of 2023, global economies are grappling with significant turmoil. Within this context, the realm of cloud computing technology has firmly established itself as an indispensable component of our daily lives. The spotlight is especially on ensuring the unwavering stability and security of data centers. Thus, One striking revelation comes from Uptime Institute’s annual survey: power failures persist as the leading cause of major data-center outages. In this analysis, we’ll explore this critical finding in greater detail and delve into the 6 data center trends outlined in the report. These trends offer valuable insights into the evolving landscape of data centers in 2023.
Trend 1: Fewer Data Center Outages but Higher Costs
The data center landscape has witnessed a reduction in outages over the past year, with 69% of data center owners and operators reporting some form of outage in the last three years, down from 78% in 2020. This improvement can be attributed in part to operational changes influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer upgrades, reduced workloads, and increased reliance on cloud and public internet-based applications have contributed to this decline.
However, it is essential to note that while the number of outages has decreased, the severity of these outages remains a significant concern. Roughly half of all data center outages cause substantial revenue loss, time delays, and damage to reputation. According to the Uptime Institute, 20% of outages in 2021 were deemed severe or serious, with approximately 60% of major outages incurring costs exceeding $100,000.
These statistics emphasize the critical importance of enhancing data center resilience and robustness to mitigate the financial and reputational risks associated with outages.
Trend 2: More Mission-Critical Workloads in the Cloud
The migration of mission-critical workloads to public clouds is on the rise. In 2023, 33% of respondents reported placing mission-critical workloads into public clouds, a significant increase from 26% in 2019. This shift demonstrates growing confidence in the cloud’s ability to support critical operations.
However, visibility into the operational resiliency of cloud services remains a concern. Among those who have migrated workloads to the cloud, 15% expressed dissatisfaction with the level of visibility. Cloud providers are starting to respond to this requirement, aiming to provide better access and auditability. This trend is expected to accelerate as competition and compliance requirements intensify.
Interestingly, 61% of respondents with workloads distributed across on-premises, cloud, and colocation sites believe that this distribution has enhanced their overall resiliency, dispelling concerns about relying solely on cloud infrastructure.
Trend 3: Public-Cloud Repatriation Is Not Widespread
Despite debates about a potential wave of cloud repatriation, data shows that what goes into the cloud tends to stay there. Nearly 70% of respondents have not repatriated any workloads or data from a public cloud to a private or colocation environment. Among the 32% who did repatriate, cost savings and regulatory compliance were the primary motivators.
These findings suggest that the cloud continues to be a preferred platform for many organizations due to its scalability and agility. Security breaches accounted for only 1% of repatriated workloads, indicating that security concerns are not the primary driver of workload migration.
Trend 4: Expansion of Edge Computing
The demand for edge computing is expected to increase significantly in 2023, with 35% of respondents anticipating somewhat higher demand and 26% expecting a significant surge. This underscores the growing importance of edge computing in supporting applications that require low latency and proximity to end-users.
Looking ahead, 40% of respondents plan to use their private edge data center facilities for expansion, followed by 18% opting for a combination of private and colocation. While shared edge facilities currently play a smaller role, this trend may evolve as more edge workloads are deployed. Shared facilities offer benefits such as reduced complexity and lower capital investment, making them an attractive option for future expansion.
Trend 5: Staffing Challenges Persist
Attracting and retaining skilled staff remains a persistent challenge for data center owners and operators. Nearly half (47%) of respondents report difficulty in finding qualified candidates for open positions, while 32% indicate that their employees are being hired away by competitors.
Looking ahead, the demand for data center staff is projected to grow from approximately 2 million full-time employee equivalents in 2019 to nearly 2.3 million in 2025. This growth is not limited to specific roles or geographic regions, creating a global need for skilled professionals. Moreover, the data center industry faces the additional challenge of an aging workforce in mature markets like North America and Europe, leading to potential experience gaps.
Despite industry-wide efforts to attract a more diverse workforce, widespread change has been slow to materialize. Addressing staffing challenges is crucial to ensure the continued operation and development of data centers.
Trend 6: Lagging Data Center Environmental Practices
Sustainability has gained prominence in the data center sector, but many organizations still do not closely track their environmental footprint. Power consumption and Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) are the most commonly monitored sustainability metrics, with 82% and 70% of respondents tracking them, respectively.
However, other critical metrics, such as water usage, server utilization, carbon emissions, and e-waste management, are less frequently monitored. For instance, only 40% of respondents track water use, despite the fact that many data centers consume substantial amounts of water. Server utilization, a key factor in digital infrastructure efficiency, is tracked by just 40% of respondents.
These findings underscore the sector’s overall immaturity in adopting comprehensive sustainability practices. In many smaller and privately-owned enterprise data centers, there is a disconnect between those responsible for paying the electric utility bill and those managing the compute infrastructure. This gap contributes to the lack of comprehensive sustainability tracking.
The six data center trends of 2023 reflect the evolving landscape of data centers amid global challenges and opportunities. While the industry has made progress in reducing outages and embracing the cloud for mission-critical workloads, challenges related to staffing, sustainability, and visibility persist.
As data centers continue to play a pivotal role in the digital age, addressing these trends is essential for ensuring operational resilience, efficiency, and sustainability in an increasingly interconnected world. Data center owners and operators must adapt to these evolving trends to navigate the complex landscape of modern IT infrastructure successfully.