A Feature Article by João Marques Lima, JSA Media Consultant – Europe
No one can deny the last two years have been nothing but unusual. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it much horror and afflicting scenes across all corners of the world.
However, as we head into a new year, things seem to be falling into a better place if we compare it to just a year ago. Yes, there are still many challenges lurking around and as winter approaches, there’s a danger of things going off rail again, but overall, we seem to be getting into a new year where the mood will shift into learning how to live with the virus for many years to come.
2022 could well become the year of Phoenix, when the world rises again to a new status, a new age. And in this new age, digital infrastructure takes a central stage as our lives become ever more digital,
For operators, all this translates into opportunities not just at home but abroad. 2021 has seen a tremendous increase in capital allotment across several geographies, and expansion beyond the well-known destinations – eg. London – is now common.
With that said, here are five brief market trends set to make 2022 an exciting year for operators.
Geographies and Descentralised Hosting
Data centre construction in Europe is booming and this is not going to stop in 2022. What is interesting is that although locations like London, Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt and Paris have seen a lot of movement in 2021, it was the non-traditional destinations that made headlines.
Lisbon, Sines, Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin, Zurich, Milan, Vienna, Warsaw, are just a few of the locations changing the European monopoly game play.
In 2022, these Tier II and III locations will continue to gain a lot of traction, especially as hosting descentralises more and more into edge locations.
Europe is undergoing a large reformulation of its networks with modernisation happening across the majority of countries. Adoption of AI and IoT is speeding up, yet, it is the roll-out of 5G – and already the begin of 6G – that will drive a huge surge in demand in 2022 for data centres as the network fosters tech adoption.
For instance, the European way for the digital decade adopted in 2021 sets the additional target to cover all populated areas with 5G by 2030.
In Europe, a first set of 6G projects worth €60 million was launched under the 5G-PPP. The Hexa-X flagship is developing a first 6G system concept complemented by 8 projects investigating specific technologies for 6G.
The European Commission adopted its legislative proposal for a strategic European partnership on Smart Network and Services as a Joint Undertaking in February 2021. This proposal includes a public R&I investment of €900 million over the period 2021-2027.
The Joint Undertaking will coordinate research activities on 6G technology under Horizon Europe as well as 5G deployment initiatives under the Connecting Europe Facility Digital and other programmes.
The data centre industry is making remarkable efforts to become more diverse and inclusive of all people from all backgrounds and communities. Yet, much is still needed to really achieve a more balanced sector.
With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing back some of the work done before the health crisis, 2022 will prove to be a key year to fundamentally change perceptions and challenge inertia.
Next year will provide almost a new beginning here as Europe makes its way out of the pandemic, with new recruitment needed, more digital inclusion and a wider perception of the data centre world.
It won’t be a once in a lifetime opportunity to get the industry in the right mind set, but it will be a good restart and drive to make 2022 count as the year of inclusion.
Public awareness of the data centre industry has historically been vey low. Thousands of people live close to hosting facilities, without even knowing what’s inside or that their internet comes from the building next door.
For years, several companies and boardrooms were happy with such environments, their excuse: why should the public know about us as long as they get to enjoy what we provide?
This view maybe was acceptable in the “old days” but it no longer is. Data centres have gotten bigger and bring with them not just the good in terms of capital and economic boost, but also the ugly in terms of noise, pollution and disruption – views that can get overhyped if the industry doesn’t help educate others.
It is only to the industry’s benefit to have the public involved and knowledgeable on data centres. Not only this will ease minds across Europe but also help drive better integration with communities, speed up greening of operations and much more.
On the other hand, we can expect more public backlash between operators and communities in some parts of Europe as people oppose to the construction of new facilities.
2022 should be a year when operators really turn to the communities to help, educate and grow together.
Sustainability won’t be a new trend in 2022 but it is certainly an aspect of the data centre that will gain even more momentum.
From construction considerations – design, retrofitting, greenfield developments, materials, etc – to running operations, being green is not a choice but a must do.
Data centres are at the cusp of their development, and this is a prime period in time to get it right from the get-go ensuring our future is sustainable and protective of the planet.
On the operational side, remote working solutions were something widely spoken about, but operators still preferred to have humans on-site.
Although humans won’t be replaced by software and robots any time soon, providers are expected to ramp up their remote working capabilities – in part built on the lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This will help maintain data centres’ carbon footprint those extra percent down as less lights on and visits to sites will be need.